Getting home proves tough task for Southeast Missouri State baseball team

Tuesday, March 20, 2012
Southeast Missouri State's Andy Lennington drives in two runs against IPFW during a game last month at Capaha Field. (Fred Lynch)

The Southeast Missouri State baseball team has struggled against a demanding nonconference schedule and is coming off a rough road trip in more ways than one.

Southeast isn't likely to get a breather today when Missouri State visits Capaha Field for a 4 p.m. first pitch.

MSU is off to a 15-6 start after going 33-23 last year. The Bears returned eight position starters and seven pitchers from their 2011 squad.

"They've got a very good, experienced ballclub and they've had a great program for a long time," Southeast coach Mark Hogan said.

The Bears won't make it easy for the Redhawks (7-14) to snap out of a funk that has seen them lose 10 of their last 12 contests, including four straight.

Southeast Missouri State's John Logan Zink singles against Illinois State during a game earlier this month at Capaha Field. (Fred Lynch)

Southeast was outscored 40-14 over the weekend in a three-game series against New Mexico State in Las Cruces, N.M., that ended late Saturday night.

To add insult to injury, Southeast was unable to leave New Mexico early Sunday afternoon as scheduled because of a dust storm that caused wind gusts of more than 65 mph and postponed numerous flights.

The Redhawks waited more than 12 hours at the airport in Albuquerque, N.M., before their flight was changed to an early Monday morning departure, which forced them to spend Sunday night at the airport.

Southeast finally arrived in Cape Girardeau at 1 p.m. Monday to complete a 30-hour journey from the time the team left its Las Cruces motel early Sunday morning.

"It was the most bizarre trip in my career," Hogan said. "The players and coaches handled the situation in unbelievable fashion."

New Mexico State was the latest in a long line of top-flight squads Southeast has faced so far.

The group includes three NCAA regional qualifiers from 2011 in Dallas Baptist, which advanced to the Super Regional round, Wright State and Arkansas-Little Rock.

Those four teams, along with Illinois State and Saint Louis, have a collective 77-41 record.

"You look at some of the clubs we've played ... so many of them are having really good years," Hogan said. "I anticipate several of them will end up being [NCAA] regional clubs."

The inexperienced Redhawks are a combined 2-13 against those six squads, although Hogan is encouraged that seven of the losses have been by either one or two runs.

"We've been right there with a lot of very good teams," said Hogan, whose squad has suffered eight of its 14 defeats by one or two runs. "That makes me feel like we're not far off."

Southeast's offense has been fine so far. The Redhawks are batting .295 and averaging nearly seven runs per game, which ranks second and first, respectively, in the 10-team Ohio Valley Conference.

But Southeast's new-look pitching staff has struggled, especially with control.

The Redhawks have an OVC-worst 7.56 ERA that also ranks among the highest in the country, and they rank among the national leaders in walks issued with 140. They also have hit 38 batters.

Southeast senior standouts Trenton Moses and Kenton Parmley are having monster seasons.

Moses, an All-American third baseman, leads the OVC in batting (.473), RBIs (29), runs scored (23) and on-base percentage (.596) while ranking second in home runs (8) and slugging percentage (.905). He has reached base safely in 42 straight games dating back to last year.

Parmley, a shortstop, is the OVC's fifth-leading hitter (.422). He has a 28-game hitting streak dating back to last season and has reached base safely in 37 straight contests.

Other Southeast players batting above .300 are sophomore outfielders Derek Gibson (.316) and Cole Bieser (.311).

Missouri State is batting just .260, seventh-worst in the eight-team Missouri Valley Conference, and averaging only five runs per game. But the Bears lead the MVC with a 2.71 ERA that ranks among the national leaders.

Coach Keith Guttin has led the Bears to a 1,007-636 record in his 30th season.

Today's contest marks the Redhawks' final tuneup before they begin conference play this weekend with a three-game home series against defending OVC regular-season and tournament champion Austin Peay, the preseason favorite to repeat.

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