Indians look for wins to stay on top of OVC pack

Saturday, April 27, 2002

Southeast Missouri State University's baseball team has had a few days to savor Tuesday's big win over nationally ranked Oklahoma State.

Now the Indians come back to earth.

Austin Peay visits Capaha Field this weekend for a three-game series that will go a long way toward determining the Ohio Valley Conference regular-season champion.

"Beating Oklahoma State was a great win for us and I hope we use it as a springboard, but we know it won't mean anything in the conference," Southeast coach Mark Hogan said.

The Indians (19-14, 7-2 OVC) and Governors (20-20, 5-4) will play a 2 p.m. doubleheader today and a 1 p.m. single game Sunday.

Southeast leads the conference by 1 1/2 games over both Morehead State and Murray State, who are 7-5. Preseason OVC favorite Austin Peay is in fourth, two games behind the Indians.

"This is really a big series for both teams," Hogan said. "I know they feel like they need to win two out of three and so do we. For us, this series will determine whether we'll keep sprinting up there at the top of the conference or come back to the pack a little bit."

The series could also help establish a favorite for OVC Pitcher of the Year.

Austin Peay's Mike Weel (6-2, 3.55 earned-run average) won the award two years ago. Weel joins Southeast's Brad Purcell (6-2, 2.81) and Brandon Smith (7-1, 4.18) as the current frontrunners. Purcell leads the OVC in ERA while Smith is first in wins.

"If somebody throws real well out of those three," Hogan said, "he could have leg up for pitcher of the year."

Austin Peay's offense is led by A.J. Ellis (.381, five home runs, 26 runs batted in), who has the league's fourth-best batting average, and Michael Johnson (.289, nine homers, 48 RBIs).

Southeast's top hitter is Tristen McDonald (.364, three homers, 28 RBIs). Vern Hatton (.357, two homers, 27 RBIs) has a 17-game hitting streak and his seven triples rank second in the nation.

Also batting above .300 for the Indians are Denver Stuckey (.318, three homers, 22 RBIs), Zach Borowiak (.311, four homers, 25 RBIs) and Brian Hopkins (.306).

(573) 335-6611, extension 132

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