May 31, 2013
Govs Ready to Rule in Regional
By Sean Ryan, CBI Co-Founder
2007, Shawn Kelley battled Vanderbilt's David Price pitch for
pitch in an 11-inning, 2-1 loss in the Nashville Regional. In
2011, Jordan Hankins (right), one of four freshmen in the
lineup, hit a late homer in an NCAA tourney opening day win
against Georgia Tech in the Atlanta Regional. Last year, shutout
wins over Indiana State and Cal State Fullerton preceded a loss
to Oregon in the Eugene Regional final.
It's safe to say that Austin Peay has arrived.
The Governors are back in the NCAA tournament for
the third year in a row having registered a three-peat - or as
the school shouted in a headline "THREE PEAY-T!" - as Ohio
Valley Conference tournament champions.
"To three-peat, to win the conference tourney
three years in a row is a special thing," Governors coach Gary
McClure said last Saturday night after the tournament win.
For the first time in those three seasons, Austin
Peay may have been safe for a spot in the Field of 64 even had
it not won the tourney - it won 15 straight and 19 of 20 to end
the season and finished with an RPI of 28.
The Governors not only played as if they weren't
taking an at-large bid for granted, but also like they wanted to
prove that they are one of the best mid-major programs in the
"They played like they had as much incentive as
they ever have," McClure said. "A big part of that is that we
were playing so well going into it. We didn’t want that streak
to be broken."
Austin Peay (45-13) got off to a fast start,
winning 25 of its first 30. Then, the Governors went on a slide.
McClure said that over the next eight games (1-7), his squad
just played really, really bad, making plenty of errors and
going cold at the plate.
"It was one of those deals where whatever could
go wrong went wrong," he said, adding that there were some
players who started to think the team was a little better than
it was and let their guard down a little bit.
Experience, however, can do wondrous things.
When the Governors won at the Atlanta Regional,
they did it with a lot of freshmen and sophomores. A year later,
much of that same group was making a run to the Eugene Regional
"I think it’s played a big role in that a lot of
the kids on this team did this thing when they were freshmen and
again as sophomores and now again as juniors," said McClure, who
became the OVC's all-time winningest coach this season and also
was inducted into the Austin Peay Hall of Fame.
Guys like Hankins, who hit .351 with 11 homers
and ranks eighth in the nation with 66 runs, and Cody Hudson,
hitting .365 with 30 stolen bases, have played vital roles.
And McClure has blended in key junior college
transfers such as ace Lee Ridenhour, who had tightness in his
arm but returned after missing nearly a month to pick up the win
in relief in the OVC championship game, and Craig Massoni, who
enters the tournament with a .388 average, 16 homers and 68 RBI,
good for the OVC triple crown.
Their reward is a trip to Bloomington and
first-time host Indiana. Their first game is against SEC power
Florida, which played the second toughest schedule in the
The Governors, the No. 2 seed, feel like they
belong. They feel like they are one of the top programs in the
“Now, to be there, it’s a good feeling,” McClure
said. “I think we’re a program that’s had a ton of success and
we have to be looked at that way.”
(photo courtesy of APSU Media