Freshman Danny Wright, Southeast Missouri State baseball team rout UT Martin in series opener
Danny Wright is starting to find his groove on the Southeast Missouri State baseball team.
The freshman second baseman had a pair of hits, including his first career home run, as the Redhawks jumped on UT Martin early and cruised to a 14-1 victory in Ohio Valley Conference action Friday at Capaha Field.
"Sometimes you see kids who are really self-aware, and they worry about things -- how they look, what they wear. Danny doesn't care," Southeast coach Andy Sawyers said. "He's not scared. He really didn't play well this fall. I don't think he got a hit until the last week of the fall. ... Now all he does is hit. It's fun to see him because even when he struggled, it didn't really get to him, so I appreciate his composure and his competitiveness and, really, his lack of fear.
"He just goes out there and plays."
Wright, who finished 2-for-3, led a trio of players who recorded multiple hits for Southeast (8-7, 1-3 OVC). Center fielder Dan Holst added a pair of hits, including a double, and had three RBIs, while first baseman Tristen Gagan finished 2-for-4 with a triple and four RBIs.
The Redhawks took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning when left fielder Clayton Evans got hit by a pitch, stole second and scored on a one-out single by Holst.
Southeast cushioned its lead in the second with six runs. Third baseman Chris Caffrey led off with a solo homer before four walks allowed another run to score. With the bases loaded and one out, Gagan hit a line drive to the gap in shallow left-center, a ball that was misplayed by the center fielder and rolled deep into the outfield for a three-run triple. Designated hitter Kylar Robertson followed with an RBI triple to right-center, giving the Redhawks a 7-0 lead.
"When you have an inning like that, there's a lot of things that happen right," Sawyers said. "... I think we had four walks that inning. Those walks are as good as the hit by Tristen. It's good at-bat, good at-bat, good at-bat. That's the thing that stood out to me tonight that I'll take away from it. We were just able to stack good at-bats together.
"Whether it be Gagan's swing that results in a triple or the walks that lead up to it, I just thought our guys were really focused and locked in offensively."
Southeast hitters drew a total of 12 walks, which Sawyers said was a point of emphasis in practice this week.
"We really took a lot of walks and got a lot of base runners," Sawyers said. "... I thought the command of the strike zone early was how we were able to spread them out."
Southeast tacked on two more runs in the third inning, as Wright lifted the first pitch he saw over the left-field fence to give the hosts an 8-0 advantage. Holst added an RBI double with one out to push SEMO's lead to 9-0.
"At first I honestly didn't think it would be going out. That's not really my job. That's not normally what I do," Wright said about the home run. "I just tried to put a good swing on it and get on so the guys behind me can move me around, but it felt good."
Starting pitcher Clay Chandler (3-2) carried a shutout into the sixth inning and secured the win on the mound for the Redhawks. He went six innings, allowed one earned run, scattered six hits and had five strikeouts and one walk.
However, on a day in which SEMO's offense combined for 11 runs in the first four frames, Chandler's job was to avoid implosion.
"It kind of settles him in and lets him relax," Wright said about the run support. "It's a big point for us that we want to try to get up as early as possible so we can take that stress and all that off the pitchers."
A throwing error and a wild pitch allowed Wright and shortstop Connor Basler to build an 11-0 advantage for Southeast in the fourth inning.
UTM (7-8, 0-4) cut its deficit to 11-1 in the top of the sixth when Anthony Adduci reached on a two-out single and scored on a double by Dan Kerwin.
Right fielder Chris Osborne and Gagan each had an RBI in the seventh before Caffrey scored in the eighth on a sacrifice fly by Michael Berra.
Relief pitcher Blaze Hastings didn't give up a hit but walked three batters and struck out one in the top of the seventh before he was lifted in favor of Joey Burris, who closed out the game for Southeast with two strikeouts over the final two innings.
Left-handed pitcher Dom Bazzani (1-2) got the start for the Skyhawks but was pulled two batters into the bottom of the second after appearing to injure his throwing arm. He threw one inning and allowed three runs -- all earned -- on two hits with one strikeout and two walks.
UTM used a total of five pitchers, as Sam Folks led the way with 3 2/3 innings of work. He struck out two batters, walked three, allowed five hits and gave up four runs (two earned).
Southeast will look to take the series in Game 2, with first pitch scheduled for 2 p.m. Saturday.
The Redhawks will send Justin Murphy (2-1) to the mound, while the Skyhawks will start Dalton Westfall (2-1).