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Possible record-breaking season cut short for Redhawk baseball seniors
Amid preparations for another Ohio Valley Conference weekend, the Southeast baseball team struggled to find its concentration at practice.
On Thursday, March 12, the Redhawks held a practice in preparation for a home series against Southern Illinois University - Edwardsville. Southeast coach Andy Sawyers said he felt a “negative air hanging around” as the practice had began.
“We kind of had a bad feeling that day in our practices and it was a really weird day. Everybody was talking about [the coronavirus],” Sawyers said.
After a mandatory head coaches’ meeting later that day, Sawyers contacted the team to break the emotional news - their season was canceled.
“I broke down crying a little bit; I didn't expect that,” Sawyers said. “I don't think I spoke very well.”
Redshirt-senior Justin Dirden felt the news wasn’t real.
“It almost seemed kind of fake to end so quickly,” Dirden said.
After a rough start going 2-6 in their first eight games, the Redhawks bounced back to rally, including a seven game win streak and won eight of their last 11 games to end the shortened season.
“We were really starting to play well. I liked the locker room, I liked the group and they cared about each other, they were playing for each other, never being selfish, all the things that good teams do right they were doing,” Sawyers said. “That's not always easy to get. You can recruit talented people but it's not always easy to get them to do those sorts of things.”
Sawyers has confidence that most seniors have the will and want to come back for the extra year of eligibility the NCAA is offering. Two seniors in particular might have another option. Sawyers said Dirden and senior Dylan Dodd have “done enough” to get drafted.
There is still a lot of uncertainty regarding what the future holds for some of the seniors, as there has not been much information released by the NCAA.
“There's few seniors like Wilber and Dylan [Dodd] who might stand a chance at the draft,” Dirden said. “It's hard to really say who might be coming back who might not know. I would say, that if all the seniors did come back, with the amount of freshmen still coming here — like the team next year would be crazy good.”
Both Dirden and Dodd said they would take the chance at the major league if they were granted that opportunity.
“If I’m given the opportunity to play pro ball, I’m definitely going to take that, but if that doesn't work out, I'm going to come back next year to play again,” Dodd said. “I have another year of schooling anyway just to get my degree so it won't really affect me that much.”
Through the 17 games played throughout the season, Sawyers believed Dirden was on track to “shatter” the single-season home run record and runs batted in record, and senior Tyler Wilber was on track to break the runs scored and doubles record.
Dirden led the Redhawks this season in batting average (.414), hits (29), home runs (9), RBIs (26), total bases (63), slugging percentage, (.900), and stolen bases (9).
Wilber led the team with nine doubles and eleven walks. Wilber was second in batting average (.406), total bases (48), and slugging percentage (.696), tied for second with 28 hits all while recording a team-leading .494 on-base percentage.
Earlier in the season, Dodd was named College Baseball National Pitcher of the Week and OVC Pitcher of the Week. With four starts, Dodd had a 2-1 record with 26.2 innings pitched, only seven walks and recorded 36 strikeouts
With the cancelation of their season the Redhawks will not be on the field until next spring.