Indians have had a big season, but biggest test awaits

Sunday, May 19, 2002

Southeast Missouri State University's baseball team has had some big weeks this year on the way to its first Ohio Valley Conference regular-season championship.

There was the week the Indians upset nationally ranked Oklahoma State.

There was the week the Indians swept a three-game series from preseason OVC favorite Austin Peay.

There was the week the Indians won both ends of a doubleheader from defending OVC regular-season champion Eastern Illinois, victories that clinched the league title for Southeast.

There was this past week, when the Indians swept a two-game series from Southeastern Conference member Arkansas.

But no week for the Indians looms larger than this coming one, when an automatic NCAA berth will be awarded to the winner of the OVC Tournament that will be held Wednesday through Saturday in Paducah, Ky.

For all the wonderful things coach Mark Hogan's Indians have done this season, the reality is that they'll likely be sitting at home for the NCAA Tournament if they don't come back from Kentucky with the championship.

Hogan seriously upgraded the Indians' schedule this year, having them play quite a few games against some of the nation's more prominent programs. The thinking was this: if Southeast does have a strong season yet fails to win the OVC Tournament, maybe the Indians could sneak in with an at-large bid.

Southeast has had a strong season against that rugged schedule. But Hogan knows an at-large NCAA berth is a longshot at best, since no OVC team has ever earned one.

Hogan and the Indians realize that, for all practical purposes, the only way they're going to the "big dance" is to succeed in Paducah.

Get ready for a big week.

Former Southeast assistant men's basketball coach Tom Schuberth, who spent last season at Alabama-Birmingham before losing his job when a new coaching staff took over the Blazers, is now an assistant at Central Florida, a Division I program in Orlando.

I had lost track of former Southeast standout defensive lineman Angel Rubio, the OVC Defensive Player of the Year in 1997 who was on NFL rosters for a couple seasons before being released.

But I happened to come across Rubio's name the other day on The Associated Press transactions list. He's playing in the Arena Football League, with the Orlando Predators, and he recently came off injured reserve.

Former Southeast basketball player Leonard Bishop, who I wrote about earlier this year, has been recognized as the national high school boys' basketball coach of the year by several publications, including USA Today.

Bishop, who played at Southeast from 1972-74 and later coached at New Madrid County Central before moving to Texas, led Dallas Lincoln to an undefeated record and the mythical high school championship according to every national poll.

Marty Mishow is a sports writer for the Southeast Missourian.

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