Indians face a must-win situation with optimism

Friday, May 24, 2002

PADUCAH, Ky. -- Southeast Missouri State University finds itself in a tough spot as it faces a climb out of the loser's bracket in the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament.

But senior second baseman Clemente Bonilla, a four-year starter and all-time OVC leader in walks, insists the top-seeded Indians are far from finished.

"We're the best team in the conference, we've dealt with adversity all year and we'll come back," Bonilla said after the Indians' 4-3, 10-inning loss Thursday to fourth-seeded Murray State. "We've still got a lot of confidence. Things didn't go our way today, but we'll be back."

Added catcher Tristen McDonald, "It's a tough loss, but we feel like we can come back. We just need to swing the bats."

The Indians, needing two wins today and another Saturday to claim the championship, appear to have the pitching left to bounce back.

Brandon Smith, whose 10 victories are just one behind teammate Brad Purcell among all OVC hurlers, will start against Austin Peay at 11 a.m. today. If Southeast wins, then Donnie Fuller, one of Southeast's most effective pitchers in recent weeks, would likely get the nod at 7 p.m. against Tennessee Tech.

Then, if the Indians make it to Saturday, they could turn to Purcell, the OVC Pitcher of the Year and winner against Morehead State on Wednesday. He would be working on just two days rest.

"It's going to be tough, but I still feel great about our club," Southeast coach Mark Hogan said. "I think we definitely have the pitching left to come back and win the tournament."

Record barrage

Second-seeded Eastern Illinois ripped a tournament record nine home runs -- three by Aaron Shelbourne -- in a 21-1 elimination victory over sixth-seeded Morehead State Thursday.

Thursday's other game saw defending tournament champion Tennessee Tech, the fifth seed, slip past third-seeded Austin Peay 3-2, leaving the Eagles as the only undefeated squad remaing.

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