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Southeast Missouri State baseball team tries to get on track vs. EKU
The Colonels have been the OVC's hottest team while Southeast has struggled
By MARTY MISHOW
The reeling Southeast Missouri State baseball team will try to gain some traction against the Ohio Valley Conference's hottest squad.
Eastern Kentucky, riding a five-game winning streak and a four-game OVC victory string, visits Capaha Field for a three-game series beginning today at 3 p.m. There will be 1 p.m. contests Friday and Saturday.
OVC series normally are played Friday through Sunday but are moved up each year for the Easter holiday.
"We need to pick up a couple of wins this week if not sweep," Southeast senior shortstop Kenton Parmley said.
Southeast (8-22, 1-5) has lost 12 of its last 13 contests, which is the worst slump in the 18 seasons under coach Mark Hogan.
The Redhawks hoped to gain momentum Tuesday, but NAIA Mid-Continent University foiled those plans with a 10-9 win in the opener of Southeast's five-game homestand.
"I was hoping we'd have a good game and it would give us a lot of confidence and momentum," Parmley said. "It didn't work out that way."
The Redhawks, tied for last place in the 10-team OVC, lost two of three during last weekend's series at Eastern Illinois. Southeast was swept in its first conference series at home by first-place Austin Peay.
EKU (12-15, 4-2) is in a three-way tie for second place. The Colonels swept SIU Edwardsville over the weekend after opening conference play by losing two of three to Jacksonville State. EKU's first two OVC series have been at home.
"It's a dangerous series because Eastern Kentucky just swept over the weekend and they're going to come in here riding high," Hogan said. "It's time to play some good ball. I hope we can do it."
The Colonels' .268 batting average ranks sixth in the OVC. EKU leads the league with 38 home runs and is sixth with 163 runs, an average of six runs per game.
Two-time all-conference senior shortstop Richie Rod-riguez leads the Colonels with a .353 average, nine home runs and 26 RBIs. He ranks third in the league in homers and RBIs. Rodriguez is a former Louisville Slugger Freshman All-American who batted better than .300 in each of his first three seasons at EKU.
Junior center fielder Austin Grisham is batting .349 and leads EKU with nine stolen bases in 11 attempts. He was named OVC co-player of the week after batting .563 (9 for 16) with eight RBIs last week.
Senior first baseman A.J. Jamison (.320) is EKU's other regular hitting above .300. He is among three Colonels with five homers.
"They've got some guys having very good years," Hogan said. "Rodriguez has been a premier player in this league ever since he was a freshman. He's really good."
EKU's 6.15 ERA is sixth in the OVC, although the Colonels have a 3.83 ERA through their first six league games.
The Colonels' top starter has been junior college transfer left-hander Shane Grimm, who is 3-4 with a 3.60 ERA. Grimm and senior Matt Harris (3-3, 6.00) both fired complete-game wins against SIUE last weekend.
Junior Anthony Bazzani is one of the OVC's top relievers with four saves and a 2.95 ERA. He made his only start of the season during the final game of the SIUE series.
EKU ranks second in the OVC defensively with a .969 fielding percentage. The Colonels have committed 32 errors, second-fewest in the conference.
Southeast's .282 batting average is fourth in the OVC, and the Redhawks are fourth with 184 runs, a 6.1 average.
But Southeast's offense has scuffled recently. The Redhawks have hit just .244 and averaged 4.5 runs during their six OVC games, which have been against the elite pitching staffs of Austin Peay and Eastern Illinois.
"We need to pick it back up," Parmley said.
The Redhawks continue to rank last in the conference with a 7.43 ERA and last with a .954 fielding percentage. They have committed a league-high 51 errors.
Southeast is expected to go with its normal OVC starting rotation of sophomore left-hander Christian Hull (2-4, 6.50) today, junior Shae Simmons (1-4, 4.15) on Friday and juco transfer left-hander Ryan Kendall (0-2, 6.20) on Saturday.
Simmons notched Southeast's lone conference win. He leads the league in strikeouts per nine innings with 10.9.
"We do have a bunch of conference games left, but we really need to get going," Southeast sophomore left fielder Derek Gibson said. "We need to get some wins."