April 9, 2009

FAST START PUSHES ISLANDERS PAST SFA IN SERIES OPENER

The Texas A&M-Corpus Christi baseball team scored five runs in back-to-back innings including a grand slam by Stephen Flora and held off a late charge by Stephen F. Austin to claim the first meeting in the three-game series 11-9 at Chapman Field on Thursday afternoon.

With the win, the Islanders moved to 12-21 overall and are now 4-12 in the Southland Conference. Stephen F. Austin falls to 5-10 in the league and 12-18 on the year.

After Brian Ferguson drove in Sean Meyers with a two-run double in the first, A&M-Corpus Christi scored five in the bottom of the second inning to lead 5-1.

In the bottom of the second the Islanders took advantage of wildness by Erik Gregersen, who hit two batters and walked two more to lead to the first run. With two outs, Flora belted his first career grand slam and seventh home run of the season off the SFA starter, who left at the end of the inning.

"Stephen's grand slam gave us some breathing room early," said Islander head coach Scott Malone. "It allowed us to play with the lead early."

The Lumberjacks added a run in the third on the first of two sacrifice flies by Meyers.

A&M-Corpus Christi sent 10 batters to the plate in the bottom of the third stretching its lead to 10-3. Martin Parra led off the inning with a single and scored as Jacob Perales drove in his first of two runs in the game. Perales went to third on a single by Brycen Bell and came home on a one-out single by Justin Greiner.

Bell scored the third run of the inning on a wild pitch by Ryan Priest, who gave up five runs on six hits in two-thirds of an inning. Jeramie Marek's RBI single tallied Greiner before the freshman crossed the plate on single by Weston Montgomery.

SFA would pull to within five with a single run in the fourth on a RBI single by Justin Reynolds and two runs in the fifth. Zach Gardner scored the first run as he advanced to bases on a passed ball with Tanner Hines scoring on a sac fly by Meyers to right.

Brett Carnline was the beneficiary of the early offensive production as he made his first start in a month since March 10. The junior picked up his team leading third win of the season giving up five runs with four earned, while striking out four to match his best as an Islander.

"Brett Carnline was good on the mound today for his first start in a while," said Malone. "He limited the walks today which had been a problem."

Perales picked up his second RBI of the afternoon in the sixth. The sophomore singled driving in Martin Parra after he roped his fifth triple of the season for an 11-5 advantage.

"The RBI by Perales was huge it gave us a 6-run lead," said Malone. "He gave us some added breathing room.

SFA made a charge at the Islanders in the top of the seventh. With one out in the inning, the Lumberjacks loaded the bases off TAMUCC reliever Brett Gips, who gave up four runs on five hits in 1-1/3 innings. Designated hitter Joe Staley pulled the visitors within two runs with a grand slam to right.

The duo of Bryant Sparkman and Trey Hernandez would shut down the Stephen F. Austin offense the rest of the way allowing one hit over the final 2-1/3 innings. Sparkman allowed a hit to the first batter he faced before retiring five straight. Hernandez walked the first batter he faced then sent the final three batters down swinging to earn his third save of the season.

"Our plan today for the pitchers was to avoid the big inning and we did a good job of that for the most part," said Malone. "We did a good job of minimizing their opportunities."

The Islanders finished with 11 hits marking the ninth time in the last 11 games the team had recorded double-digit hits. Stephen Flora led the way with three hits finishing a triple away from the cycle. Parra, who has posted a hit in seven straight games overall, had two hits to extend his streak to 10 in SLC games. Perales also had two hits. Long led SFA with three hits, while Hines added two.

The two teams meet again tomorrow at 2 p.m. with the finale on Saturday at 1 p.m. Roy Ferdin will start for the Islanders and Erich Lechman for the ‘Jacks.