OVC baseball race promises exciting finish

Monday, May 2, 2011

The Southeast Missouri State baseball team is part of an exciting race for the Ohio Valley Conference's regular-season championship with only two of its eight conference series remaining.

Three of the OVC's nine squads are within two games of each other at the top of the standings.

Southeast, which has won 11 of its last 13 contests, is in second place. The Redhawks trail leader Austin Peay by one game. Preseason favorite Jacksonville State is another game back of the pack.

The Redhawks visit perennial national power Arkansas on Tuesday and Wednesday for their final nonconference contests before a showdown at Austin Peay on May 14 and 15.

It should be quite a race to the finish line as the Redhawks chase the program's second OVC regular-season title. The other championship was won in 2002.

While capturing the OVC regular-season crown is a big accomplishment, it's important to finish at least second in order to receive one of the two byes for the first round of the six-team league tournament.

That doesn't guarantee success in the postseason event that sends the winner to the NCAA tournament, but more often than not one of the squads with a bye has prevailed.

Southeast is closing in on adding to its conference record for consecutive OVC tournament appearances of 16 -- every year that Mark Hogan has been coach. The Redhawks claimed league tourney titles in 1998 and 2002.

A recent report said the Southeast men's basketball program would be getting its 13th scholarship back.

Coach Dickey Nutt told me that's not definite but he feels there is a strong chance that will happen. Nutt said he should find out for certain in the next few weeks.

Southeast has been at 12 scholarships -- one below the NCAA's maximum -- the past few years.

Southeast currently has 13 scholarships for 2011-12 accounted for, including the three players who already have signed.

But the status of Nate Schulte, who missed much of this past season with a blood cot and who still is experiencing health issues, is up in the air.

And Nutt has said all along that his son Lucas might revert back to walk-on status if the Redhawks need to free up an additional scholarship.

So stay tuned on the scholarship situation as the Redhawks seek to sign at least one more player, preferably a small forward/wing type.

Southeast had been targeting Dijon Farr, an all-region performer from Indian Hills (Iowa) Community College, but it now appears unlikely he'll wind up with the Redhawks. Farr visited Utah over the weekend.

New Southeast women's basketball coach Ty Margenthaler watched the Redhawks' spring football game Saturday.

Margenthaler, on the job a little more than two weeks, said things are going well. He told me he's been conducting individual workouts with his new team and is in the process of putting together a staff.

Margenthaler reportedly will keep Dionnah Jackson, an assistant from previous coach John Ishee's tenure, while bringing in two newcomers to fill the other assistant positions.

Southeast softball is having a nice bounce-back season after finishing last in the OVC a year ago.

Southeast is fifth in the 11-team league and has locked up a spot in the six-team conference tournament with just one OVC series left -- this weekend at home against Eastern Kentucky.

Eastern Washington junior tailback Taiwan Jones, the star of the team that beat Southeast during last season's FCS playoffs on its way to the national title, was selected by the Raiders in the fourth round of the NFL draft Saturday.

SIU defensive back Korey Lindsey was taken by the Bengals with the fourth pick in the seventh and final round.

Another drafted FCS player of note was Missouri State guard David Arkin, who was taken by the Cowboys in the fourth round.

I'm not sure how much interest former Southeast tailback Henry Harris was getting as a potential free agent but Harris, like anybody who went undrafted, has to play the waiting game.

Under conditions of the NFL lockout, no rookie free agents can be signed after the draft.

Hopefully Harris, the record-setting, All-American senior from Southeast's historic 2010 team, eventually will receive an invitation to an NFL camp.

Marty Mishow is a sports writer for the Southeast Missourian.

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