Southeast Missouri State baseball pitcher Underwood garners national attention for his success story

Sunday, March 13, 2011
Southeast Missouri State's Jordan Underwood delivers a pitch against North Dakota during the fourth inning Friday at Capaha Field. (Fred Lynch)

The amazing story of Southeast Missouri State pitcher Jordan Underwood is drawing national attention.

Underwood takes it all in stride while he continues to establish himself as the Redhawks' ace.

Underwood turned in his fourth straight strong start to begin the season, although Southeast lost to North Dakota 8-6 on Friday in the opener of a three-game series at Capaha Field.

"He threw wonderful again," Southeast coach Mark Hogan said. "It's a shame we couldn't get him the win."

Underwood was interviewed at length by a New York Times reporter the day before the contest. An article on the senior left-hander recently appeared in Baseball America.

Southeast Missouri State's Trenton Moses steals third base during the fourth inning Friday. Kenton Parmley also advanced to second base.

"I don't mind it. It's kind of one of those things," Underwood said. "But it's definitely good for the program, getting national publicity for the school."

Underwood lost his left eye after being struck by a batted ball during a junior college game in 2009.

There was serious doubt whether he ever would pitch again, and several Division I programs that were recruiting him backed off. But Hogan offered him a scholarship.

Underwood had an impressive rookie Division I season for the Redhawks in 2010, going 6-5 with a 4.11 ERA that led to him earning all-Ohio Valley Conference preseason honors this year.

Underwood has lived up to that billing so far. He is 1-0 with a 2.08 ERA after seven strong innings Friday, although he did not figure into the decision.

Southeast Missouri State's Taylor Heon is called out at the plate after getting caught in a rundown.

"We've had a few games like that where he's pitched really well but we didn't give him the [offensive] support," Hogan said. "He could have a few more wins."

The soft-spoken, personable Underwood, who is from Edmond, Okla., said he doesn't remember much about the day a line drive struck him in the left eye while pitching for Seminole (Okla.) State.

"I remember the guy making contact and taking it [the blow], but after that I don't remember a whole lot," Underwood said.

Doctors couldn't save the eye, although Underwood said every effort was made to, and he eventually received a surgically inserted glass eye.

"In my 25 years of coaching, it was probably one of the worst injuries I've seen," Seminole State coach Jeff Shafer told Baseball America. "There was a loud sound, so I rushed out to the mound. His face was in the dirt and you really couldn't tell how serious it was. But when he rolled over, you see the severity of the injury. And yet he wanted to walk off."

Underwood wondered if he ever would be able to pitch again but was determined to make it back. He said the biggest problem was depth perception as he adjusted to seeing with only one eye.

"That was the biggest thing, but I kind of learned how to deal with it," said Underwood, who added that depth perception primarily gives him trouble now while fielding ground balls.

Hogan said he got a call from Shafer in June 2009 after several Division I programs that had been recruiting Underwood no longer were interested.

Hogan admitted he didn't know if the pitching part of things would work out but thought Underwood deserved the chance to play Division I baseball.

"I wanted to do this because it's a once-in-a-lifetime story," Hogan said.

The pitching part of things has worked out as the story keeps getting better.

Underwood, while not overpowering, was solid last year and has been even better so far this season. He allowed just three runs and five hits in seven innings. He struck out six and walked two.

"I thought I threw pretty well for the most part," Underwood said.

Hogan has come to expect strong outings every time Underwood takes the mound.

"He's pitching great for us and he's a tremendous young man," Hogan said. "It really is a neat story."

And one Underwood knows would not have been possible without Hogan.

"He definitely stuck his neck out for me and gave me a chance," Underwood said. "I'm grateful to him."

UND's first win

The Fighting Sioux notched their first win of the season after seven losses Friday.

UND broke a 6-6 tie with two ninth-inning runs off standout closer Shae Simmons, who also gave up three eighth-inning runs. Andy Sadler's RBI single was the game-winner.

Southeast was outhit 12-8 but benefited from five errors. Trenton Moses led the Redhawks with three hits. Casey Jones and Jesse Tierney both had two RBIs.

Josh Ray had four hits and three RBIs for UND. Craig Dolmage homered and had four RBIs.

Simmons (0-2) allowed five runs and six hits in 1 1/3 innings. Brandon Baumgartner got the win, giving up an unearned run over the final three innings.

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