Special to the Southeast Missourian
The Redhawks (7-15) begin Ohio Valley Conference play with a three-game home series against what is considered to be the top squad in the 10-team league.
Austin Peay (11-10) visits Capaha Field for a 3 p.m. contest today, followed by 1 p.m. games Saturday and Sunday.
"We start a new season. We're 0-0, like everybody else in the league," Southeast All-American senior third baseman Trenton Moses said. "I think we can still have a good OVC season."
Austin Peay, the defending OVC regular-season and tournament champion, was picked to repeat in the league's preseason coaches' poll. The Governors received seven of the 10 first-place votes.
"It's always exciting to play Austin Peay. It's a big rivalry for us. You always want to beat them," Moses said.
Southeast, which is coming off a second-place OVC regular-season finish, was picked fourth this year despite losing 18 seniors and having 21 newcomers on its 34-player roster.
"I was kind of surprised we were picked that high considering what we lost, but I think it does show us a lot of respect for what we've done over the years," said Southeast coach Mark Hogan, who has qualified his team for the OVC tournament a conference-record 17 consecutive years. "Conference play is always fascinating. We've done extraordinarily well in conference play. I don't expect us to do any different this year."
Southeast has struggled against a tough nonconference schedule. The Redhawks have lost 11 of their last 13 games, including five consecutive.
"I told the guys you know it's a cliche, but everybody starts 0-0 now. It's a fact," Hogan said. "I'm sure a lot of clubs in our league don't have the record they'd like to have right now."
Only three of the league's 10 squads enter conference play with winning records. Perennial OVC power Jacksonville State, picked second in the preseason poll, is 6-14.
Hogan takes some solace in the fact that eight of Southeast's losses have been by one run or two runs, although the past five defeats have been by a combined 64-17.
"We just need some momentum. We've had some close games and we've had some blowouts. It's been a little bit of everything," Hogan said. "It's been a tough stretch for us. But we've got a great group of kids. I still believe in them and our coaching staff. I don't want our fans to give up on us."
Southeast has struggled with a revamped pitching staff that has just three returning hurlers from last season. The Redhawks have an OVC-worst 7.68 ERA that also ranks among the nation's highest.
Southeast has walked 146 batters, the most in the conference and among the most in the nation, and also has hit 38 batters.
Giving up so many free base runners -- an average of more than eight per game -- puts even more pressure on a Southeast offense that has been solid overall but that has scored just 17 runs in the last five contests.
The Redhawks lead the OVC in runs scored with 143, an average of 6.5 per game, and rank second in batting average (.293). Southeast also has the second-most home runs in the league (25).
Austin Peay returned eight position starters from last year but lost its top two starting pitchers and closer.
"I believe our experience will help us -- they've been there. They understand the level you have to play at to win," Austin Peay coach Gary McClure told Clarksville Online. "We lost some great arms, and not only did they have great arms but they pitched well for us and won.
"Any time you're replacing quality pitchers it's tough. But I like our pitching staff from the standpoint that we've got a lot of depth -- maybe more than we've had in the past."
The Govs' 4.93 ERA is third in the OVC and two of their best hurlers have been newcomers -- junior college transfers Ryan Quick and Tyler Rogers.
Quick has been Austin Peay's most effective starter and is slated to take the mound today. He is 1-0 with a 2.45 ERA that ranks fifth in the conference. He has allowed just 26 hits in 33 innings, with 25 strikeouts and 18 walks.
Rogers, among the OVC's top relievers, is 1-0 with three saves and an 0.51 ERA. He has allowed only eight hits in 17 1/3 innings, with 24 strikeouts and 16 walks.
Austin Peay's other scheduled starters for this weekend are senior Zach Toney (1-2, 4.85) on Saturday and senior Lucas Anderson (2-1, 3.86) on Sunday.
Toney, a left-hander, is the lone returner from last year's conference rotation. He earned second-team all-OVC honors in 2011.
The Govs are batting .265 and have scored 115 runs -- a 5.5 average -- to rank sixth in the OVC in both categories.
Junior left fielder Cody Hudson leads the Govs with a .362 average. He is 11 for 17 over the past four games (.647).
Senior third baseman Greg Bachman, a 2011 all-conference second-team pick, leads the Govs with six home runs and 19 RBIs while batting .303.
Sophomore second baseman Jordan Hankins, a freshman All-American last year who earned second-team all-OVC honors, also has 19 RBIs while carrying a .307 average.
Senior DH Jon Clinard, another returning all-OVC second-team selection, is hitting .325.
"Historically they're a lot like us, usually in it [the conference race] at the end," Hogan said. "They've got a very good ballclub."
Southeast's top hitters have been Moses and senior shortstop Kenton Parmley.
Moses leads the OVC in batting average (.481), home runs (9, tied for first), RBIs (30), runs scored (24), on-base percentage (.602) and slugging percentage (.935).
Moses ranks second nationally in on-base percentage, fourth in batting average, fourth in slugging percentage and sixth in home runs.
Moses has reached base safely in 43 consecutive games dating back to last year and has a 13-game hitting streak.
Parmley is the OVC's fourth-leading hitter (.414). He has a 29-game hitting streak dating back to last year and has reached base safely in 38 consecutive contests.
Southeast will go with sophomore left-hander Christian Hull (2-2, 5.62) on the mound today, followed by junior Shae Simmons (0-3, 5.32) on Saturday and juco transfer left-hander Ryan Kendall (0-1, 6.14) on Sunday.