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Redhawks break tie atop OVC with wins at JSU
Southeast swept Sunday's doubleheader and seized control of the conference race
The Southeast Missouri State baseball team had never won a series at Jacksonville State.
Southeast took care of that Sunday by sweeping a doubleheader in Jacksonville, Ala., to gain sole possession of the Ohio Valley Conference lead.
After rolling 10-5 in the opener, the Redhawks rallied for a 6-5 victory in the nightcap.
The scheduled three-game series was trimmed to two games after Saturday's doubleheader was rained out. Sunday's contests were seven-inning affairs, per OVC rules for Sunday twin bills.
Southeast is 25-14 overall and 10-4 in the OVC. JSU, which began the weekend tied for first place with the Redhawks, fell to 20-18 and 8-6.
"What a day for us," said Southeast coach Mark Hogan, whose squad has won five straight, with four of those coming on the road. "I couldn't be prouder of the guys. Everybody contributed. It was a total team effort.
"We've still got a ways to go, but I couldn't be much happier about where we're at right now."
Since joining the OVC in 2004, JSU has posted more wins than any other conference team. The Gamecocks were 7-2 against Southeast at home during that period, although the Redhawks did take the last two series played in Cape Girardeau.
"They've got a great club. You don't come to Jacksonville very often and get a sweep. Nobody does," Hogan said. "I'm really proud of everybody, coming all the way down here, having to sit in our motel all day [Saturday] with the rain and not being able to practice. Our guys showed a tremendous amount of focus."
The Redhawks' high-powered offense was slowed for much of Sunday's nightcap after junior third baseman Casey Jones belted a three-run homer in the first inning.
Southeast had two hits in that opening frame, then the Redhawks did not have another hit for the next four innings as they fell behind 5-3.
But with one out in the sixth inning, Jones doubled and junior right fielder Louie Haseltine followed with his second homer of the day and 15th of the season to tie the contest.
"It was an absolute bomb," Hogan said. "There was absolutely no doubt."
The Redhawks weren't finished in the sixth. With two outs, junior center fielder Blake Slattery reached on an error, and the Redhawks took advantage.
Junior second baseman Tim Rupp singled and sophomore first baseman Kody Campbell followed with a single to score Slattery with the go-ahead run.
"Kody hadn't been playing much lately, but he really came through," Hogan said of the Oran product who started both games Sunday.
Given the lead, Hogan turned to Shae Simmons, Southeast's standout freshman closer from Scott City.
Simmons continued to dominate as he worked the final two innings for his fifth save to go along with a 3-0 record. Simmons has allowed just six hits in 24 1/3 innings and has a 1.11 ERA.
Simmons worked around a leadoff walk in the sixth, then worked around a one-out single in the seventh as JSU had the tying run on second base with two outs. He struck out two.
"Shae just continues to impress everybody. It's not surprising anymore," Hogan said. "He worked through the top of their order in the seventh inning and retired their first-team All-American [Todd Cunningham]."
Senior Kyle Gumieny, who had been a conference starter all season, relieved starter Jordan Underwood and notched the victory.
Gumieny allowed one hit in 2 2/3 scoreless innings. He improved to 7-0 and is tied for the OVC lead in wins.
"Kyle threw great out of the bullpen," Hogan said.
Underwood, a junior left-hander who lasted 2 1/3 innings, was charged with five runs, but only two earned. He allowed seven hits.
"The key was our pitching held them down after they got ahead early," said Hogan, whose squad fell behind 5-3 after three innings. "It took just about everything we had to win that game."
Not that Hogan was surprised.
"We've got a special group of guys," he said. "This team is not going to quit."
Junior Nick Thomas was the pitching star in the opener and had his second strong performance in a span of six days.
Thomas relieved starter Logan Mahon in the second inning after JSU began the frame with a home run and a single. Thomas came in with a 2-0 count on the third batter.
Thomas reeled off three straight scoreless innings. He allowed two runs in the fifth and two more in the seventh, but by that time the Redhawks had a comfortable lead.
All told, Thomas gave up four runs and seven hits in six innings. He struck out six and walked one as he improved to 6-0, tied for the second-most wins in the league.
The previous Tuesday, Thomas fired six shutout innings during a nonconference win at SIU.
"The job Nick did speaks for itself," Hogan said. "He's had a heck of a week."
Mahon, a junior left-hander, walked the first three batters he faced in the opening inning but escaped damage with a strikeout and a double play.
When Mahon again got into second-inning trouble, Thomas was called into the game.
"Logan didn't have a good game, but he wiggled out of that first inning and got the double play ball," Hogan said. "That might have been the biggest pitch of the game."
Slattery, a Central High School graduate, belted a two-run second-inning homer to give the Redhawks an early 2-0 lead.
"That was big, to get us off to a good start," Hogan said.
Ahead 2-1, the Redhawks scored four third-inning runs and had little trouble the rest of the way.
About the only negative of the opener for Southeast was senior All-American catcher Jim Klocke having his 25-game hitting streak snapped. But Klocke bounced back with two doubles in the nightcap.
Southeast's offense continued to thrive with 25 hits on the day, including 16 in the opener.
Jones went 4 for 8 with four RBIs. He added two doubles along with his homer and increased his batting average to .449, which ranks among the national leaders.
Haseltine, Slattery, Campbell, junior left fielder Michael Adamson and sophomore shortstop Kenton Parmley all had three hits in the doubleheader. Haseltine and Slattery each delivered three RBIs.
Haseltine's 15 home runs rank high nationally and his nine homers against conference opponents lead the league.
Haseltine has hit safely in 15 straight games, while Jones has a 14-game hitting streak.
"It was just a great day for us all the way around," said Hogan, whose squad increased its batting average to .357, which ranks fourth nationally.
Southeast visits Central Arkansas on Tuesday and Wednesday for a nonconference series that will conclude a stretch featuring 10 of 11 contests on the road.
The Redhawks return to OVC play this weekend with a home series against Murray State.