Southeast Missouri State baseball program honors 2002 squad

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Southeast Missouri State baseball coach Mark Hogan has an explanation for why one of the program's best teams lost its first five games.

"I way overscheduled that year," Hogan said.

Southeast's 2002 squad, then known as the Indians, began the campaign by being swept in a three-game series at national power Oklahoma then dropped two at national power Wichita State.

But not much else went wrong for the club, which won the program's only Ohio Valley Conference regular-season championship while also capturing the program's second and most recent OVC tournament title.

The Indians went 37-20 to tie a school record for wins and upset host Alabama for the program's only NCAA Division I regional victory. The win over the Crimson Tide marked the first time any team had beaten Alabama at home in regional play.

"That was quite a ballclub," said Hogan, Southeast's coach in his 18th season at his alma mater. "What a special group on and off the field. Just a great bunch of guys."

Fourteen of the squad's players, including most of the top performers, along with assistants Scott Southard and Jeremy Tyson, held a 10-year reunion over the weekend in conjunction with Southeast's home series against Tennessee Tech.

Team members were introduced on the field before Saturday's game. They spent the rest of the day mingling with many of the fans among the season-high crowd of more than 1,000 at Capaha Field.

"It's great to be back," center fielder Vern Hatton said. "It's a lot of fun seeing everybody."

The list of honors for that group was long.

Hogan won the OVC coach of the year award, and Brad Purcell claimed pitcher of the year accolades.

Joining Purcell on the all-OVC first team were Hatton and third baseman Denver Stuckey, a Kelly High School graduate. Five other players made the second team.

Second baseman Clemente Bonilla was the OVC tournament MVP, while other all-tournament selections were Purcell, Hatton, catcher Tristen McDonald and shortstop Zach Borowiak.

Six Southeast players batted better than .300 that year, led by Hatton (.369), McDonald (.353), Stuckey (.349) and Bonilla (.347).

Hatton had a school-record nine triples and a team-high 58 RBIs. He was second with nine home runs. McDonald led with 10 homers and was second with 52 RBIs.

Purcell and Brandon Smith both went 12-2 as the co-aces on the pitching staff.

"Some of the best players in the history of our program were on that club. They're all over our record books," Hogan said. "It's been great to spend time with the guys all weekend."

Bonilla and Purcell were the only two of the squad's top players not on hand.

McDonald, an Australian native like Purcell, made the trip from his home country.

"It's been a blast seeing everybody again," McDonald said. "A lot of great memories."

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