Southeast Missouri State baseball team opens series vs. ranked Razorbacks

Tuesday, May 3, 2011
Southeast Missouri State catcher Ky Burgess slides home safely during the second game of Saturday's doubleheader sweep of Murray State in Murray, Ky. The Redhawks won 5-4 and 17-7. (Wayne McPherson ~ Special to the Southeast Missourian)

The Southeast baseball team takes a break from OVC play with two games against No. 18 Arkansas

The Southeast Missouri State baseball team will try to take down one of the nation's perennially strong programs.

Southeast steps out of Ohio Valley Conference play for a two-game series at Arkansas. Contests in Fayetteville, Ark., are set for 6:35 p.m. today and Wednesday.

"It's exciting to play a highly ranked, perennial powerhouse in one of the best stadiums in the country," Southeast coach Mark Hogan said. "We're really looking forward to going there and competing."

Arkansas, ranked 18th nationally, is 29-13 overall and 10-11 in the Southeastern Conference, which boasts three squads ranked among the nation's top five. The Razorbacks are tied for first place in the SEC Western Division.

The Razorbacks have earned nine straight NCAA regional berths, the last eight under coach Dave Van Horn. He led Arkansas to the Super Regional round the past two years, marking the program's first consecutive Super Regional berths.

Arkansas has made six College World Series appearances, including in 2004 and 2009 under Van Horn.

"They've had one of the top programs in the country for a while," Hogan said. "It's going to be a great atmosphere."

Southeast is playing its best baseball of the season, having won 11 of its last 13 games. The Redhawks, 27-16 overall and 10-6 in OVC play, are second in the nine-team league.

"I feel like we're playing really well right now. We want to keep that going," Hogan said.

Southeast has had some success against Arkansas, winning three of seven games. All the meetings, on the road, have been since 1995, the year Hogan took over the program.

The Redhawks have won three straight against the Razorbacks, including a two-game sweep during the most recent meeting in 2002.

"We've played really well over there," Hogan said. "I don't know if you call it playing up or not, but we've had some success over there."

Arkansas is last among 12 SEC teams with a .270 batting average. The Razorbacks are 10th in runs scored (234), fourth in ERA (3.17) and ninth in fielding percentage (.968).

Senior Dominic Ficociello leads Arkansas in hitting at .338 and has 35 RBIs. Senior Kyle Robinson has a team-high seven home runs and is tied for the top spot with 35 RBIs. He is batting .306.

Southeast leads the OVC in hitting (.316), runs scored (304), homers (46) and fielding percentage (.971). The Redhawks rank second in ERA (4.65).

Junior third baseman Trenton Moses from Advance, Mo., is having a monster season. He is second in the league in batting (.396), tied for second in RBIs (42) and tied for third in homers (nine).

Moses also tied Southeast's career record for most times hit by a pitch with his 27th Saturday at Murray State.

An interesting matchup could come on the base paths. Arkansas has an SEC-high 86 steals in 103 attempts. The Redhawks have thrown out 18 of 29 runners on attempted steals.

"I think there will be a lot of interesting aspects to this series," Hogan said. "I know our club will play hard."

Junior college transfer left-hander Ryan Prickett, who has been solid out of the bullpen, will make his first start of the season today. Wednesday's starter has not been determined.

"Ryan was a starter in juco so I don't think he'll have a problem with it," Hogan said.

Hogan will have plenty of pitchers available with the Redhawks off this weekend. Southeast's next action is a OVC showdown at first-place Austin Peay on May 14 and 15.

"Since we're not playing this weekend we can use our whole staff," Hogan said. "We'll use quite a few different people."

Local connection

Arkansas has a Southeast connection in pitching coach Dave Jorn.

Jorn was a starting pitcher on Southeast's 1976 team that finished third in the NCAA Division II World Series. The team is enshrined in the university's athletic hall of fame. Hogan also was a member of that team and he and Jorn have remained good friends.

Jorn, who still holds Southeast's career ERA record of 2.24, is in his second stint with the Razorbacks. The O'Fallon, Ill., native was the Arkansas pitching coach from 1983 to 1988 -- he helped the Razorbacks reach the CWS in 1985 and 1987 -- and later became a minor league coach and scout for several professional organizations. He began his second stint with the Razorbacks in 2002.

Jorn since has been a part of CWS squads in 2004 and 2009.

"He's like a brother to me. It will be great to see him and his family," Hogan said.

Noteworthy

* Wednesday's game will air live on Cox Sports Television, a New Orleans-based regional cable network with nearly 2 million viewers.

"It's an opportunity to get some TV exposure. It's great for our program," Hogan said.

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