CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. – Junior starter Lee Ridenhour threw seven scoreless innings and Austin Peay State University’s offense scored nine unanswered runs en route to a 9-4 Ohio Valley Conference series-opening victory against Southeast Missouri, Friday night at Capaha Field.
Austin Peay (26-9, 9-3 OVC) got off to a halting start offensively, stranding six runners on base while being held scoreless in the first four innings. The Govs offense finally got its legs under it thanks to a Southeast Missouri fifth-inning error.
Right fielder Rolando Gautier and left fielder Cody Hudson each reached base to start the fifth. Second baseman Jordan Hankins followed and hit a hard grounder to first base where Matt Tellor caught the ball and threw to second. However, the throw eluded the second baseman and ended up in left field, allowing Riner to score. Shortstop Reed Harper’s sacrifice fly pushed home Hudson, giving APSU a 2-0 lead.
The Govs offense continued to press, scoring in each of the next three innings. Gautier extended his hit streak to 15 games with a line drive two-run home run to right in the seventh extending the lead to 7-0. First baseman Craig Massoni’s two-run home run in the eighth set the Govs advantage at 9-0.
“I believe we did a really good job focusing through the entire game tonight,” said Massoni. “We took care of business in the middle innings, which is something we’ve struggled with throughout the year. Hopefully we can come out tomorrow with the same effort.”
Ridenhour rode out the Govs slow offensive start, allowing three base runners – on two singles and a walk – in the first four innings. Once he was handed a lead, Ridenhour would work out of jams in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings to secure the lead.
“My mindset was to keep us in the ballgame,” said Ridenhour. “I didn’t want to give up a big inning. I knew giving up a run here or there it wasn’t going to hurt us. Our hitters came out swinging the bats and our defense was energized and I felt we were going to score tonight.”
Southeast Missouri (17-18, 9-7 OVC) could not take advantage of an Austin Peay error in the fifth inning that broke up a double play, leaving a runner at third base. The Redhawks got a leadoff double in the seventh, but the Govs snuffed out the opportunity, maintaining the shutout.
The Redhawks would break up the shutout in the ninth, scoring four runs on four hits and a walk issued by reliever Tommy Hager, who recorded two strike outs in the frame, including the game-ending out.
Ridenhour (6-0) remained unbeaten on the season with his seven scoreless innings. He scattered six hits and allowed three walks but struck out a season-low three batters.
“Lee put up a bunch of zeros and gave an opportunity to score runs for him,” said McClure “That’s what your ace has to do. Lee came out and got ahead in the count and threw strikes. I believe he put together a dominating game.”
Junior first baseman Craig Massoni continued his torrid pace in OVC play, posting a 4-for-4, three RBI outing against the Redhawks. He had three singles, including a RBI single in the sixth, and a walk along with his home run. He was one of eight Govs starters to record a hit in the contest.
“I believe we played a great game offensively. We were a little slow getting going – we weren’t having bad at-bats it just wasn’t working for us. I felt we were more like the team that played the first third of the season when it came to evaluating pitches and getting good pitches to hit.”
Southeast Missouri starter Zack Smith (2-3) was tagged for the loss after allowing two runs on six hits and six walks over five innings. Left fielder Derek Gibson was 3-for-5 to lead the Redhawks offense.
Austin Peay and Southeast Missouri continue their three-game series with a 2 p.m., Saturday contest. The Govs will hand the ball to senior right-hander Casey Delgado (5-2, 4.76 ERA) while the Redhawks will turn to sophomore left-hander Will Spitzfaden (3-3, 4.58 ERA).