Southeast Missouri State baseball team faces crucial series vs. Tennessee Tech

Friday, April 20, 2012

Three of the Ohio Valley Conference's most prolific offensive performers will be on display at Capaha Field this weekend.

That will be a sidelight to an important series featuring two teams trying to climb up the OVC standings.

Southeast Missouri State is much more desperate than Tennessee Tech entering the three-game set that begins at 6 p.m. today. There will be contests at 2 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. Sunday.

"We have to at least take this series," senior shortstop Kenton Parmley said. "It's a must."

Perennial OVC contender Southeast (12-26, 3-9) is struggling like never before under 18th-year coach Mark Hogan, although the Redhawks are coming off Tuesday's 5-3 nonconference win over Arkansas State.

The Redhawks have qualified for the six-team OVC tournament a league-record 17 straight times. They never have missed the event during Hogan's tenure at his alma mater.

Southeast has plenty of work ahead of it to extend that streak. The Redhawks are last in the 10-team league and have lost all four of their conference series so far. They have five league series remaining.

"We need this series," All-American senior third baseman Trenton Moses said. "This would be a good time to make some noise."

Tech (16-20, 6-6) is fifth in the OVC but has its sights set on a finish near the top. The Eagles are just two games out of second place.

"Tech's a good club," said Hogan, who notched his 900th career win Tuesday, including 515 at Southeast. "We need to put a good string together."

While neither the Eagles nor Redhawks are tearing up things, that can't be said for Tech sophomore first baseman Zach Stephens, Moses or Parmley.

Those three are near or at the top of most of the league's major offensive statistical categories.

In fact Moses and Stephens are waging a battle for the OVC's triple crown.

Stephens leads the league with a .430 batting average, while Moses is third at .426. They are tied for first with 15 home runs. Moses leads with 46 RBIs, and Stephens is second with 42.

They are also one-two in slugging percentage and on-base percentage. Moses leads in both categories.

"He's a good player," Moses said about Stephens. "But we're not really focused on the individual stuff."

Then there is Parmley, the OVC's No. 4 hitter at .413 who also ranks high in numerous other significant categories.

That's not to mention the school and OVC record 45-game hitting streak Parmley carries that is tied for the fourth-longest in NCAA Division I history.

Moses has reached base safely in a school-record 58 consecutive games although neither the OVC nor NCAA keeps a record for that category.

Sophomore left fielder Derek Gibson is riding a 22-game hitting streak for the Redhawks.

"Hopefully it's a good offensive weekend for us, and hopefully we can slow them down," Parmley said.

Tech's .307 batting average leads the OVC, and Southeast is fourth at .286. The Redhawks have an OVC-worst 7.11 ERA, while the Eagles' 6.69 ERA ranks eighth.

Junior Tristan Archer (3-3, 4.61 ERA) has been Tech's top starter. Senior Matthew Shepherd (3-2, 5.89) and true freshman David Hess (2-3, 6.87) round out the Eagles' probable rotation for this weekend. All are right-handers.

Southeast will go with junior ace right-hander Shae Simmons (3-4, 4.34) today. He has all of the Redhawks' OVC wins.

Hogan has shuffled the rest of his pitching rotation for the series.

Juco transfer right-hander Tony Zerrusen (1-1, 5.88) will start Saturday. Sunday's starter will be either true freshman left-hander Will Spitzfaden (1-0, 7.31) or juco transfer right-hander Dylan Lynn (2-0, 6.52).

Hogan said Spitzfaden, who pitched 7 2/3 innings in Tuesday's win against Arkansas State, will get the nod Sunday if it is decided that his arm has had enough time to recover.

Noteworthy

* Southeast's 2002 team that won OVC regular-season and tournament titles while upsetting Alabama for the program's only NCAA Division I regional victory will have a reunion this weekend.

The then-Indians, who went 37-20 to tie a school record for wins and captured the program's only OVC regular-season crown, will be introduced before today's first pitch. Most of the players are expected to be on hand.

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