Southeast Missouri's flight was on its descent to the Tampa International Airport for a tournament hosted by the University of South Florida when Head Coach Mark Redburn's cell phone had just enough service to take a call.
The call was from his counterpart at USF, who let Redburn know the tournament the Redhawks were travelling to play in was cancelled. Soon after that, Redburn was informed that his season was over once the NCAA voted to suspend play due to a global COVID-19 pandemic.
SEMO was 12-5 when its season abruptly shut down. The Redhawks won nine in a row and posted a 9-1 record in their first 10 games.
The Redhawks short season lasted only 23 days, but they accomplished a lot in a short amount of time. SEMO led the OVC in six statistical categories - slugging percentage (.528), on-base percentage (.411), triples (14), stolen bases (41), fewest hits allowed (84) and fewest earned runs allowed (40). The Redhawks also rated second in the league in six others - batting average (.310), home runs (19), opposing batting average (.204), runs allowed (51), stolen bases per game (2.4) and triples per game (0.8).
Nationally, SEMO was among the top 25 in five categories - triples per game (2nd), stolen bases per game (8th), scoring (16th, 6.7), slugging percentage (21st) and on-base percentage (24th).
Once the shock of their 2020 campaign being swept out from under them wore off, the Redhawks found a way to grow even stronger through adversity and are now again anxious to defend their Ohio Valley Conference regular-season and tournament crowns.
SEMO enters the 2021 campaign as the OVC preseason favorite voted on by OVC Head Coaches and Communication Directors. The Redhawks were also the league's preseason favorite last year, but didn't get a chance to play a conference game.
All the uncertainties and challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic influenced the NCAA Division I Council to allow schools to provide spring-sport athletes an additional season of competition and an extension on their period of eligibility. So, everyone redshirted a year ago.
SEMO's 2021 roster includes 24 players with three seniors, five juniors, five sophomores and 11 freshmen. The Redhawks return five starters and have the deepest pitching they have had since Redburn took over as head coach.
The Redhawks open the season this weekend on the road at SEC opponent Auburn for a three-game series.
Follow SEMO Athletics on Twitter, now at @SEMORedhawks.