For the first time in the 2010 season, the Texas A&M-Corpus Christi baseball team will hit the road as they travel to Houston for the Rice Invitational this Friday through Sunday. On the way, the Islanders will stop to face Houston-Victoria on Thursday at 6 p.m.
The road will be tough for the Islanders at the Rice Invitational as they will face three teams with national pedigrees. Rice, which opened the season 0-3 with losses at national power Stanford, was a top 7 team in six preseason polls. Nebraska also had a rough time on the West Coast against Fresno State opening 1-4 against the Bulldogs. Elon, which received votes in various preseason polls at the start of the season, has won its first four games of the season the last an 8-3 decision at High Point.
"We are a little disappointed because we were supposed to play four games at Chapman Field to get going but only were able to play two because of the weather so we are not as tested as we would like," said Islander head coach Scott Malone. "Playing four games in four days lets us get some guys on the mound and see what they. We will some have the opportunity to get a lot of guys some at bats to see who can help us.
"Plus, anytime you play some big time programs it gives you a chance to put the program on the map."
Marc Damon will make his debut on the mound on Thursday against UH-Victoria which is 6-14 on the year. Damon, who made his mark at the plate in the opening weekend hitting, was first slated to start the finale with Prairie View A&M and Tuesday's meeting with Houston Baptist. It will also be an opportunity for Phillip Garcia and Ramon Madrid to compete in front of their families as Garcia is from Bloomington and Madrid is from Victoria.
When the Islanders open the Rice Invitational against Nebraska on Friday at 1 p.m. it will be Ian Campbell on the mound making his first start. Campbell earned the win in the second game of the Sunday doubleheader with the Panthers tossing three one-hit innings with three strikeouts. Against Elon on Saturday at 1 p.m., Roy Ferdin will get the nod, while Brandon Orr will make his second start against Rice. The tournament finale with Rice is slated for a 3:30 p.m. start.
"I'd like see our starters go out and set the tone early give us a chance play with the lead," said Malone. "Baseball is much easier when being chased than when doing the chasing. We had to play from behind both games over the weekend. I think it is important we get five-to-six quality innings from our starters.:
In the sweep of the Panthers over the weekend, the Islanders hit .366 as a team. Omar Garcia, Jeramie Marek and Damon led the way as each hit .571 or better. Garcia hit a team-best 750, while Marek was 6-of-10 with four runs batted in. He extended his hitting streak to a school-record 24 games. Damon made his Islander debut hitting .571 and launched the team's first home run of the season and added a double.
"Jeramie came out made it look easy and it was nice to see that level of consistency out of him," said Malone. "We would love to see Trey and Jacob get hot in the middle of the order and give us a chance to score some runs."
The Islanders received solid pitching from its staff which posted a 3.50 ERA for the weekend, walked three batters as a group and limited the Panthers to a .250 average. Trevor Foss earned the win in the opener allowing one hit over 2-2/3 innings, while Campbell was nearly perfect in three innings of relief to get the win in the second game. In 9-2/3 innings of work, the Islander bullpen allowed one earned run.
"We have as much depth on the mound as we have had in the three years I have been here," said Malone. "There is a lot of competiveness at the top and I would like be able to start settling in on those three-or-four starters that give us best quality starts, while the others can further bolster the bullpen."
The Islanders return home to make its Whataburger Field debut on Tuesday night against Texas A&M-Kingsville. The first pitch is slated for 6:30 p.m.