Redhawks' push for OVC tourney goes to wire

Monday, May 14, 2012

It's only fitting that the Southeast Missouri State baseball team's postseason hopes will hinge on this week's final three regular-season games.

After all, the inexperienced Redhawks have faced an uphill struggle all year.

Everything will be on the line when SIU Edwardsville visits Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

Southeast likely will need to finish strong in order to extend the program's Ohio Valley Conference-record streak of 17 consecutive league tournament appearances.

The Redhawks have put themselves in strong position to make it 18 for 18 since coach Mark Hogan took over at his alma mater.

Southeast posted its third OVC series victory in four weeks by taking two of three from visiting Murray State over the weekend, making the Redhawks 7-5 in their last four OVC series after going 3-9 in their first four conference sets.

The Redhawks are tied with Morehead State for sixth place in the 10-team OVC. Tennessee Tech is a half-game back after having Sunday's contest at Eastern Kentucky rained out.

The Redhawks and Morehead are tied for fifth for OVC tournament purposes because fifth-place SIUE is not eligible for the event this season during its final year of the Division I reclassification process.

The top six finishers qualify for the tournament. Southeast, Morehead and Tech basically are battling for the final two tourney berths. All three teams have three conference games remaining.

It should be an exciting week of baseball around the OVC and especially in Cape Girardeau.

It was good to see former Southeast football coach John Mumford at the Redhawks' baseball game Friday at Capaha Field.

Mumford, who led Southeast's program from 1990 through 1999, was in town visiting.

Mumford is entering his 12th season on the staff at Army, where he coaches the defensive ends. He finally got to experience a postseason game with the Black Knights last year. They beat SMU 16-14 in the Armed Forces Bowl during their first bowl appearance since 1996.

A big change in prep baseball will take place next season after Missouri State High School Activities Association member schools recently voted for five classes, up from the current four-class system.

The measure needed two-thirds of support from member schools and received nearly 75 percent.

The MSHSAA won't release the class breakdowns until December. Basketball currently uses five classes.

Another change for baseball will see the state final four move from Meador Park in Springfield, Mo., to T.R. Hughes Ballpark in O'Fallon, Mo., beginning in 2013,

Here's wishing Darrick Smith all the best in his retirement from Central High School following this school year.

Smith has been a longtime football and baseball assistant coach for the Tigers, along with serving a two-year stint as Central's athletic director.

I've known Smith, a former baseball player at Southeast and for the Capahas, about as long as I've been at the Missourian -- nearly 28 years. He's a great guy and a class act all the way.

My condolences go out to the family of River Eagle Distributing founder, president and CEO Gene Patterson, who died last week at age 73 after a battle with cancer.

Patterson was a great supporter of Southeast athletics over the years and will be missed.

A former standout Kentucky guard who took Mississippi Valley State to the NCAA tournament this year is the new men's basketball coach at Morehead State.

Sean Woods went 50-44 the past four seasons at Mississippi Valley State, including 21-13 this year when the Delta Devils went 17-1 in the Southwestern Athletic Conference.

Woods, a member of the University of Kentucky Athletic Hall of Fame, scored 21 points in the memorable 1992 East Regional final that the Wildcats lost to Duke 104-103 in overtime on Christian Laettner's miraculous buzzer-beater.

Woods replaces Donnie Tyndall, who left Morehead to take over the Southern Mississippi program in late April. Tyndall led the Eagles to 102 wins the past five years, including a 2011 upset of Louisville in the NCAA tournament.

One of the OVC's most successful women's basketball coaches is moving on.

Brady Sallee, who took over a struggling Eastern Illinois program and turned it into a consistent OVC power, was named Ball State's coach last week.

Salle posted an eight-year record of 136-110 at EIU, including 106-55 over the last five years. He led the Panthers to five consecutive winning seasons after they had losing records the previous 12 years.

Top-seeded Tennessee-Martin captured the OVC softball tournament Saturday, beating sixth-seeded Tennessee Tech 6-2 in the winner-take-all final. Tech had forced the if-necessary title game with a 3-1 victory.

The automatic NCAA tournament berth continued quite a school year for UTM's women's sports program, which also won OVC tournament titles and earned NCAA berths in soccer and basketball.

Marty Mishow is a sports writer for the Southeast Missourian.

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