Hatton adds quickness in Indians' resurgance

Wednesday, April 17, 2002

Southeast's Vern Hatton has helped keep the Indians on a roll with his .352 batting average and conference-leading seven triples.By Marty Mishow ~ Southeast Missourian

At 6-feet-2 and a solid 210 pounds, Vern Hatton doesn't have the typical build of a college baseball speedster.

But make no mistake -- Southeast Missouri State University's senior center fielder can fly. That's apparent when he dashes around the bases for one of his triples or tracks down fly balls that he appears to have no chance of getting to, much less catching.

"I actually ran the 60-yard dash two years ago in junior college in something like seven seconds flat, which isn't very good, and that was my best time," Hatton said, laughing. "That motivated me to get faster. I've gained a lot of speed the last couple of years, doing a lot of sprints and drills."

Hatton and the rest of the surging Indians (17-13), who lead the Ohio Valley Conference, will try to keep rolling today when they visit Carbondale for a 3 p.m. non-league game with Southern Illinois (18-14). Southeast beat SIU 8-2 on April 3 in Cape Girardeau and has won five straight against the Salukis.

"It's great to see the way we're playing now and we want to keep it going," Hatton said. "Everything is really coming around."

Hatton, whose .352 batting average ranks second on the Indians behind Tristen McDonald's .367, has seven triples to lead the OVC by a wide margin and place him among the national leaders. Hatton's 12 doubles rank him near the top of the OVC and his 25 runs batted in are second on the squad behind McDonald's 27. In addition, Hatton tops the Indians in runs scored with 29.

After leading the Indians in home runs last year with seven -- he batted .298 after transferring from Kishwaukee (Ill.) Community College -- Hatton has only one homer so far this season. Not that he minds. Triples, he said, give him more satisfaction.

"I love it. It's the best feeling, better than a home run because you really have to earn it," he said. "My goal is to always get to third. I haven't been thrown out yet."

While Hatton fancies triples, the numerous spectacular catches he has turned in this season also give him quite a rush. Hatton, who committed just one error last season and has only two errors this year, helped save a recent victory against Missouri with a diving grab. And a few days later, he made two similar catches against Arkansas State.

"I think I'm going to catch every ball out there," Hatton said confidently but without a trace of cockiness. "I feel like that's my territory."

Southeast coach Mark Hogan has become a huge fan of Hatton's all-around feisty play that generally results in his uniform being a mess early in every game.

"What a year Vern is having in every respect," Hogan said. "He's the captain of our defense, he runs the bases unbelievably well, he's really hitting the ball. Some of the plays he's made on defense are fantastic, big league plays. He busts it on every play. He's dirty before we even start the game, at every practice."

mmishow@semissourian.com

(573) 335-6611, extension 132

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