JACKSON, Tenn. - Sophomore pitcher Kacy Kemmer got off to a rough start in Saturday's first game but redeemed himself with a masterful outing in the nightcap as Austin Peay State University's baseball team won a pair of contests in the Ohio Valley Conference Baseball Championship.
Austin Peay (37-22) defeated Southeast Missouri, 10-6, in the day's first game which wrapped up play in the tournament's loser's bracket and eliminated the Redhawks. The Govs then came back one hour later behind Kemmer to post a 7-0 victory against Eastern Illinois in the first game of the Championship Round, forcing a decisive noon, Sunday contest for the OVC Baseball Championship crown and NCAA Regional berth.
Following the day's doubleheader the story focused on Kemmer's performance. He became the first pitcher to start both games of a doubleheader in OVC tournament play since the championship moved to a neutral site in 2001.
The sophomore transfer was called upon to make his second start as a Governor in the opener against Southeast Missouri. However, Kemmer struggled with command and eventually allowed two runs on three hits in one-plus inning before the Govs went to their bullpen.
After the Govs won that contest, Kemmer (2-0) returned to the mound to start the doubleheader's second half and turned in a performance gem, limiting the Panthers to five hits and walking only two while striking out three. He became the first pitcher since 2005 to throw a complete-game shutout in the tournament--when Austin Peay's Brad Daniel turned the trick to win the that season's championship game.
Kemmer immediately showed he had no reservations about his first outing, retiring the Panthers in order to start the game. He ran into trouble in the second inning, allowing a walk and then hitting the next batter but got back-to-back ground balls, the first starting a double play,to work out of the jam.
Eastern Illinois (29-28) had few answers for Austin Peay's right-hander, recording only infield hits in both the fourth and fifth innings for its only base runners in a span that saw Kemmer retire 12 of 14 batters. The Panthers didn't get a ball out of the infield until first baseman T.J. McManus flew out to left fielder Cody Hudson to end the sixth.
Kemmer would get into trouble in the seventh and eighth innings as he allowed doubles in both frames, but he worked around both hits to maintain the shutout. He struck out the first two batters he faced in the ninth - his first strikeouts since striking out the second batter he faced in the contest - before allowing a single. Kemmer wiped that single away with a game-ending fielder's choice.
Although Kemmer's performance was the game's highlight, the Austin Peay offense took care of its end. The Govs scored six runs in the first four innings and tacked on an unearned run in the seventh. Second baseman Jordan Hankins finished the game 2-for-4 with two RBI, pushing across the game's first run with a single in the first and adding a solo home run in the fourth that put the Govs ahead 6-0. They never looked back.
Right fielder Rolando Gautier, who moved up to the six-spot from the nine-hole in the Govs lineup before the game, added a 1-for-5 outing that included two RBI. Shortstop Reed Harper was 3-for-4 with a walk. Harper also was brilliant in the field, producing a multitude of eye-popping plays.
Eastern Illinois used four pitchers in the contest, starter Andrew Grahn suffering the loss after allowing two runs on two hits and three walks while retiring only two batters in the first inning. Designated hitter Ben Thoma's 2-for-4 outing was the Panthers lone multi-hit outing.
In the day's first game, Kemmer left the game with the bases loaded and no outs in the second inning wikth APSU down 1-0. Austin Peay turned to senior Zane Leffew to put out the fire and he did just that, allowing only one run to score as he got back-to-back ground balls - the first starting a double play - to end the threat with the Govs trailing just 2-0.
Austin Peay 's offense rallied around him, scoring three runs in both the third and fourth innings to decisively turn the tide. The three-run third was sparked when first baseman Tyler Childress knocked his first career triple off the wall in left to lead off the frame. Gautier brought him home with a single and later scored, along with center fielder Michael Blanchard, on third baseman Greg Bachman's single.
Gautier led the charge again in the fourth with an RBI single. Blanchard followed and tied the game with a groundout. Designated hitter Jon Clinard gave the Govs their first lead, 6-5, with an RBI single to right field.
Leffew would get into trouble in the fourth, surrendering three runs after he allowed three consecutive batters to reach base with one out. Designated hitter Ryan Barnes ended that stretch with an RBI double to bring home the first run. Two batters later center fielder Cole Bieser slashed the lead to one run with a two-run single off Bachman's glove. However, catcher P.J. Torres killed the threat when he caught Bieser attempting to steal second base.
Austin Peay added to its lead in the seventh courtesy Bachman's RBI single. However, the Govs made things far more comfortable with a three-run eighth that was helped along by a Southeast Missouri error and punctuated by Hankins' clutch two-out two-run double and Bachman's RBI single that pushed the lead to 10-5.
Leffew (3-2) settled in after the fourth and retired nine of the next 10 batters he faced. His outing would come to an end when he walked the bases loaded with two out in the eighth. However, closer Tyler Rogers got out of the jam with a strikeout of Barnes.
Leffew picked up the win after going a career-long 6.2 innings, allowing three runs on four hits and five walks.
Bachman continued his spectacular tournament run in the Southeast Missouri contest, going 4-for-5 with four RBI. Five other Govs had two hits each, including Gautier and Hankins, who also had two RBI outings each.
Southeast Missouri starter Zach Smith (2-8) allowed six runs on nine hits through four innings and was tagged for the loss. Bieser led the Redhawks offense with a 2-for-4, two- RBI outing.