Seniors say farewell to Capaha Field

Saturday, May 11, 2002

Eight Southeast Missouri State University seniors will play their final home games this weekend when the baseball Indians face Eastern Illinois in a key Ohio Valley Conference series.

"We've got a great group of seniors and they've meant a lot to the success of our program," Southeast coach Mark Hogan said. "It's always an emotional time when your seniors play their final home games and hopefully we can send them out the right way."

Six seniors have played vital roles in Southeast's drive to its first OVC regular-season championship. The first-place Indians lead second-place Eastern Illinois by 2 1/2 games.

Center fielder Vern Hatton, left fielder Brian Hopkins and second baseman Clemente Bonilla are all starters who rank among the Indians' top players.

Brad Purcell and Brandon Smith are the Indians' top two starting pitchers while Mark Frazier fills a key role out of the bullpen.

Bonilla and Smith have both been in the program four years while Hatton, Hopkins, Purcell and Frazier have been at Southeast two seasons after transferring in from junior colleges.

"They've all been very valuable players for us," Hogan said.

Hatton, who has become known for his acrobatic catches the last two years, is the Indians' top hitter this season with a .373 average. He is also first in runs batted in (40) and triples (7), and he is tied for first in home runs (5). Hatton, whose 13 doubles rank second on the squad, is among the national leaders in triples.

Hopkins is batting .322, with four homers and 24 RBIs. He has been particularly impressive in OVC play as his .412 average for conference games leads the squad.

Bonilla, after a slow start this year, has raised his average to .296 (.362 in league games), with one homer, 12 doubles and 27 RBIs. A four-year starter, Bonilla earned All-American honors last season when he was the OVC Player of the Year. He is the all-time OVC and Southeast leader in walks, having drawn 193 during his career, including 40 this season.

Purcell (8-2, 3.21 earned-run average) and Smith (8-2, 4.34) are tied for the conference lead in victories, with Purcell considered the favorite to win OVC Pitcher of the Year honors.

Frazier (3-5, 5.05) fills a variety of relief roles and his four saves rank among the OVC leaders.

The Indians' final two seniors, infielders Matt Baldwin and Brad Simmons, have seen limited action off the bench, combining for just 16 at-bats.

All the seniors will be honored prior to Sunday's 1 p.m. game with Eastern Illinois that wraps up the Indians' home schedule.

(573) 335-6611, extension 132

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