Southeast Missouri State baseball pummels Purdue to avoid sweep

Sunday, March 5, 2017
Southeast Missouri State's Brian Lees celebrates his fourth-inning grand slam against Purdue with his teammates Sunday at Capha Field.
Wayne McPherson ~ Special to the Southeast Missourian

Tristen Gagan and Dan Holst are starting to show just how dangerous they can be at the top of the Southeast Missouri State baseball team's batting order.

The two players combined for eight of the Redhawks' 17 hits, as Southeast avoided a three-game sweep by claiming a 17-7 win over Purdue on Sunday at Capaha Field.

Gagan had a pair of doubles and a home run, finishing 4-for-5 with five RBIs, while Holst went 4-for-4 with two doubles and five runs scored, which tied a school record.

"I think it's big-time," Holst said about the 1-2 punch in Sunday's lineup, with him batting second and Gagan batting third. "I know my role on this team, and it's the same with the guys in front of me -- just get on base for those guys with the sticks behind us who can bang us in.

"It's hard for them to be effective without anybody on base, so that's my role. And I try to stick to it as much as possible."

Southeast (6-4) scored a pair of runs in the bottom of the first to take the lead for good.

Trailing 1-0, Holst doubled to left field and reached third on a passed ball before Gagan hit into a fielder's choice with the infield playing in, as the speedy Holst beat the throw to home plate. Gagan stole second before the next batter, Chris Osborne, hit a double through the left side of the infield, allowing Gagan to score and giving the Redhawks a 2-1 advantage.

After a sacrifice fly by Connor Basler pushed SEMO's lead to 3-1 in the second, Gagan blasted a no-doubt homer to left in the bottom of the third to extend the Redhawks' lead to 5-1.

It was Gagan's fourth home run of the season, which leads Southeast.

"I've kind of jokingly said I think Gagan is going to lead the league in RBIs because he just has a knack for driving runners in," Redhawks coach Andy Sawyers said, "and he got off to a little bit of a slow start, not with his swing or anything that he was doing. But I think it was just him getting adjusted to Division I pitching -- how they're going to pitch to that guy. ... He's starting to adjust and get his feet up underneath him.

"He is going to be a very, very good run producer for us."

After retiring 10 straight batters, Southeast starting pitcher Justin Murphy ran into some trouble in the top of the fourth when Nick Dalesandro reached on a one-out throwing error. The next batter, Jacson McGowan, followed with a two-run bomb to right, pulling Purdue (5-5) within 5-3.

However, Murphy retired the next two batters, and in the bottom of the inning, SEMO's offense answered in a big way.

Leadoff hitter Clayton Evans got things going with a one-out double before a passed ball allowed him to advance to third. Holst reached on a walk before Gagan roped a double down the left-field line to score Evans. Osborne drew a walk to load the bases and Kylar Robertson followed with an RBI single.

That set up catcher Brian Lees, who muscled a 1-0 pitch over the wall in right-center for a grand slam that pushed the Redhawks' lead to 11-3.

"We're trying to spell him," Sawyers said about Lees, who finished 2-for-3. "We haven't caught him three times in a row on the weekend yet, so we're trying to keep him fresh and strong.

"I think you might see a pretty significant offensive jump from Brian from where he was last year to where he is this year. I like where his swing's at. He's really starting to buy into more of being able to use the whole field."

In the bottom of the fifth, Holst reached on a one-out single, advanced to second on a base hit by Gagan and moved to third on a wild pitch before stealing home to give Southeast a 12-3 lead. A two-run homer by Dalesandro in the sixth and a two-run homer by LeGare in the seventh cut the Boilermakers' deficit to 11-7.

Murphy (2-0) allowed all seven runs, including six of which were earned, to secure the win on the mound. He struck out four batters, walked one and gave up seven hits in seven innings of work.

On a windy afternoon, Sawyers was impressed with Murphy's performance despite allowing three home runs.

"I thought he did a great job," Sawyers said. "Anytime where the wind is blowing like that, you see pitchers sometimes get afraid of contact, and they start walking people and things of that nature. Murph gave up a couple home runs, and I can't say we earned all of our home runs and they didn't. The park was playing small.

"He gives up one and was for sure frustrated. He made a good pitch and got in on the guy. And the ball goes over the fence, but I think the fact is that he's a senior. He's got some toughness and has been through it before. He's strike one to the next guy, and on a day like today, you're going to give up some hits and maybe some home runs. But you just have to keep throwing strikes because if you start walking people, then those home runs are grand slams."

Jared Waldhoff threw a scoreless eighth for the Redhawks, while Matthew Wade closed out the game with a scoreless ninth. Both recorded a strikeout.

Meanwhile, Gagan added a one-run double in the bottom of the seventh before Kyle Bottger hit an RBI double, Clayton Evans had an RBI single and Holst contributed a two-run double in the bottom of the eighth. Holst advanced to third and was 90 feet away from setting a score record for runs scored in a game but was left stranded. Still, all five of the Redhawks' final five runs were scored with two outs.

"We made our hits count," Sawyers said. "Anytime you look and see the runs and hits being equal ... you're doing a really good job with your offense, so I was proud of that."

Tanner Schumacher was tagged with the pitching loss after appearing to favor his forearm as he exited the game in the bottom of the third. He threw 2 2/3 innings and gave up five runs -- four earned -- on three hits while striking out three batters and walking three.

The Boilermakers used a total of seven pitchers. Brian Ghiselli allowed six runs in 2/3 of an inning of work, while Mike Kornacker gave up five runs in 1 2/3 innings.

Holst improved his batting average to a team-leading .432 on the season. He also leads the team with an on-base percentage of .543.

"He's got a knack for controlling the strike zone," Sawyers said. "He's got a knack for taking his hits, and I think with how well Clayton Evans has been going, too, we can add Trevor Ezell back to the lineup and have a really formidable top third of the order."

Evans finished 3-for-6 with a double while batting in the leadoff spot, a place that's normally reserved for Ezell, who's dealing with a back issue that forced him to miss the series against the Boilermakers.

Ezell is considered day-to-day and will undergo an MRI in the coming days.

"We're going to be without Trevor for probably a little bit longer," Sawyers said. "He's our best player. He's the straw that stirs the drink. He's the leader of our team. I think there was a little bit of a black cloud over our head. Trevor is out, and is he going to be available to play? I think we needed a win to be like, 'Yeah, we can do this.'

"I know how I felt when I heard on Friday that Trevor was going to be out all week. There was kind of a pit in my stomach, and so I think that was good for us. Obviously he's missed, but it's next-man-up. ... We talked about avoiding a sweep and finding a way to salvage a game even though we hadn't played good baseball. I thought we showed good resilience and good toughness."

Southeast returns to action at 6 p.m. Tuesday against Arkansas State in Jonesboro, Arkansas. The Redhawks will open Ohio Valley Conference action on Friday when they take on host Morehead State in the first of a three-game series.

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