Southeast Missouri State baseball team looks to end school-record losing streak at Eastern Illinois

Friday, March 30, 2012
Southeast Missouri State outfielder Derek Gibson makes contact at the plate during Tuesday’s loss at Arkansas State. The Redhawks return to OVC play today at Eastern Illinois. (WAYNE MCPHERSON ~ Special to the Southeast Missourian)

The Southeast Missouri State baseball team has played only three of its scheduled 27 Ohio Valley Conference games, so the Redhawks have plenty of time to get on track.

But the Redhawks would prefer not to lose any more ground in the OVC race when they play their second conference series and first on the road.

Southeast visits Eastern Illinois for a three-game set in Charleston, Ill. The squads will square off at 3 p.m. today, and 1 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Southeast (7-19, 0-3) is the only one of the OVC's 10 teams that was swept in its opening conference series, last weekend at home against defending OVC regular-season and tournament champion Austin Peay.

EIU (9-13, 1-2) dropped two of three at SIU Edwardsville last weekend.

"It's still really early. We've got so many conference games left, but you don't want to get too far behind," said Southeast coach Mark Hogan, whose squad has qualified for the six-team OVC tournament a league-record 17 consecutive years.

Southeast isn't just hungry for an OVC win. The Redhawks are desperate for any kind of victory. They have lost a school-record nine consecutive games and 15 of their last 17.

"It's been a frustrating time for everybody. Nobody is used to this kind of thing around here," said Hogan, Southeast's all-time winningest baseball coach in his 18th season at his alma mater. "But I still believe in this group, and I feel like we're really close to breaking through."

Inconsistency, especially with a revamped pitching staff, has been the primary problem for the Redhawks.

"We've gotten a lot of really good performances but we just haven't been consistent enough," Hogan said.

Consistency has not been a problem for seniors Kenton Parmley and Trenton Moses.

Parmley has a 33-game hitting streak dating back to last year, just two behind former major-leaguer Kerry Robinson's school-record 35-game hitting streak that ranks among the longest in OVC history.

The 33-game hitting streak is the second-longest in the OVC over the past decade. The longest streak in OVC history is 42 games by Austin Peay's Chuck Abbott.

Parmley, a shortstop who is batting .413 to rank fourth in the OVC, also has reached base safely in 42 consecutive games.

Moses has reached base safely in 46 consecutive games dating back to last year, two shy of the school record, and has a 17-game hitting streak.

Moses leads the OVC in the three triple-crown categories of batting average (.467), home runs (12) and RBIs (36).

Moses, an All-American third baseman, entered the week leading the nation in home runs while ranking fourth in batting average.

"They're both four-year starters for us who have had great careers and are just having tremendous seasons," Hogan said. "They've been off the charts this year."

Redshirt freshman Andy Lennington is third on the squad with a .344 batting average.

Southeast's offense, which ranks second in the OVC in batting average (.293) and runs scored (162, 6.2 per game), could get an added boost with the return of senior catcher Jesse Tierney.

Tierney recently returned after missing about a month with a hand injury. He has not started a game since coming back but could be in the lineup this weekend.

Southeast's pitching staff entered the week leading the nation in walks allowed and carried one of the nation's highest ERA's.

The Redhawks have walked 170 batters, an average of 6.5 per game, and their ERA is 7.40.

"It's been our Achille's heel," Hogan said about the walks.

EIU, which played its first home game Tuesday after playing its first 21 games away from home, is having opposite problems.

The Panthers boast the OVC's top pitching staff, carrying a sparkling 2.87 ERA that ranks among the nation's best.

But the Panthers are batting an OVC-worst .233, which ranks among the nation's lowest marks. They have scored a league-low 79 runs, a 3.6 average, which also is among the nation's lowest. They have hit seven homers compared to Southeast's 29.

Junior shortstop Ryan Dineen (.368) is among just two EIU players batting above .300.

Southeast's offense figures to be challenged by EIU's starting rotation of senior Mike Hoekstra (1-2, 2.45 ERA), sophomore left-hander Christian Slazinik (4-2, 1.98) and junior Troy Barton (3-2, 2.22).

Slazinik has the OVC's lowest ERA among players with enough innings to qualify. Barton is third and Hoekstra fifth. All have allowed well under one hit per inning and the highest opponent's batting average against them is .224.

Southeast will go with the same starting pitchers that faced Austin Peay.

Sophomore left-hander Christian Hull (2-3, 6.60) will get the nod today, followed by junior Shae Simmons (0-4, 4.23) on Saturday and junior college transfer left-hander Ryan Kendall (0-1, 5.49) on Sunday.

Simmons, who has been strong in five of his six starts but has pitched in tough luck, ranks second in the OVC in strikeouts per nine innings at 11.71. Hull also is among the top 10 with 9.0.

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