May 31, 2013


Govs Ready to Rule in Regional


By Sean Ryan, CBI Co-Founder @collbaseball


In 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 country.


"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 final.


"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 nation.


The Governors, the No. 2 seed, feel like they belong. They feel like they are one of the top programs in the country.


“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 Relations)