Freshman right-hander Kyle Miller allowed only one run on two hits and notched a career-high 10 strikeouts in a complete game victory as top-seeded Southeast Missouri (30-20) beat second-seeded Murray State (33-25), 10-1, Sunday in the Ohio Valley Conference winner-take-all final.
SEMO won the OVC Tournament for the first time since 2016 and claimed its fourth OVC Tournament crown in program history. The Redhawks also secured the league’s automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament and will make their fourth appearance in the 64-team field this year.
“It took five years to win a championship,” said SEMO Head Coach Andy Sawyers. “I thought we had a great club last year when we didn’t get to finish our season because of COVID. I am incredibly grateful for our seniors that came back and for our entire program to get to experience this. This team knows how to play and knows what it takes to win. It’s been fun to watch them win games this year.”
This year’s 64-team Division I Baseball Tournament bracket will be revealed during the NCAA Baseball Selection Show on Monday, May 31. The selection show airs live at 11 a.m., CT on ESPN2.
In his first career postseason start, Miller had his way with the Racers from start to finish. He retired 12 of the first 13 hitters he faced as MSU’s only baserunner in that span reached on an error. Miller held the Racers scoreless through six innings of no-hit baseball until Bryson Bloomer’s leadoff triple in the seventh. He also sat down 12-straight MSU hitters prior to that hit.
Offensively, SEMO gave Miller a big lead to work with when it scored three runs in the second inning, two more in the third and another five in the fourth.
After SEMO came up empty with the bases loaded and one out in the bottom of the first, the Redhawks took their first lead second inning.
Wade Stauss was hit by a pitch to start the Redhawks at-bat in the second inning. Peyton Leeper and Connor Basler each singled with Basler’s hit scoring Stauss for the first run of the game. Basler and Leeper moved into scoring position on a double steal and touched home on a two-out single by Tyler Wilber to give SEMO a 3-0 lead. Wilber went over 100 RBI in his career with that base hit to left.
Andrew Keck was hit by a pitch, stole second and advanced to third on a groundout in the third inning. With two outs, Danny Sperling crushed a 1-1 pitch over the right field wall for his first career home run extending the Redhawks lead to 5-0.
SEMO continued to pour it on when it loaded the bases for the third time in the bottom of the fourth. Jevon Mason ripped a double to left center and Wilber walked. With two outs, Keck was hit by a pitch to put Redhawks at every base. After Alex Crump dropped a foul ball for what would have been the third out, SEMO made him pay.
Andrews delivered a two-RBI single down the right field line to score both Wilber and Mason, and Stauss doubled home Keck. Sperling’s second hit of the game, a single to left, scored Stauss and Andrews to finish off the five-run inning that made the score 10-0 in favor of the Redhawks.
Miller improved to 4-2 this season following his outstanding performance. He allowed just one walk against the 31 hitters he faced, as well. The start was Miller’s fifth of the year and first since Mar. 27. He made 11 relief appearances before his postseason start today.
“The plan was to keep my fastball low all day and it worked,” said Miller. “I could tell the whole team was confident in me and that helped me be confident in myself. The goal was to finish it out and I was able to do that.”
SEMO pounded out 11 hits and tallied double-digit hits for the 23rd time in 2021.
Mason, Wilber and Sperling contributed two hits apiece to lead the way. Eight of the nine Redhawk starters scored. Sperling posted a career-high four RBI, as well.
Wright, Mason, Stauss, Miller, Dylan Dodd and Peyton Leeper represented the Redhawks on the 2021 OVC All-Tournament Team. Additionally, Stauss was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player. Stauss became SEMO’s fourth MVP in OVC Tournament history joining Jeremy Johnson (1998), Clemente Bonilla (2002) and Joey Lucchesi (2016).
SEMO picked up its 30th win of the season marking the 14th time in program history where the Redhawks recorded 30 or more victories. The 30 wins are also the most in a season with Sawyers at the helm.
The 2021 NCAA Division I Baseball Tournament will begin on Friday, June 4. The double-elimination tournament will conclude with the College World Series at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Nebraska on June 19-30.