The Texas A&M-Corpus Christi Islanders received three runs batted in including a two-run home run from Trey Hernandez in the opening game and received a pair of solid starts Brandon Orr and Jake Liedka as they split a doubleheader with Mississippi State on the final day of the Whataburger College Classic. The Islanders won the opener 8-6 and fell 4-2 in 10 innings in the nightcap.
"Hopefully, we can take the momentum we got from the performances of our starting pitchers and build on it," said Islander head coach Scott Malone. "We need to continue and go out and get good starts from our pitchers because it makes us a different team.
"Defensively, I thought we played well today because they were on their toes."
With the split, the Islanders move to 8-7 on the season, while Mississippi State is now 10-6. The win in first game was the first by the Islanders over a Southeastern Conference opponent.
In the game one win, the Islanders jumped to a 3-0 lead after 1-1/2 innings.
Chris Vergne reached on double down the line in left in the first inning and went to third as Cory Ege reached on an error. Hernandez then plated Vergne on a grounder to short.
Marc Damon and Jeramie Marek began the second with back-to-back singles. Matt Holland followed suit with a single up the middle to plate Damon. Marek, who later made a catch to end the seventh in center field as he dove towards the wall, came around to score as Omar Garcia hit into a double play.
After Ryan Duffy put the Bulldogs on the board with a solo home run in the bottom of the inning, the Islanders added a run in third and a pair in the top of the fifth to take a 6-1 lead. Ege then led off the inning with a double and went to third with one out on a throwing error by Mississippi State. He later scored on a Bobby Buckner ground out to second.
In the top of the fifth, Hernandez chased MSU starter Devin Jones from the game with a two-run blast to left field. It was his team-best sixth of the season.
A&M-Corpus Christi had a chance to add on in the inning but ran themselves out of the inning. Weston Montgomery was thrown out trying a stretch a single into a double and Buckner was picked off first after a single.
The Bulldogs answered back with two runs in the fifth off Orr, who exited after seven innings. With one away, Nick Vickerson belted a solo home run for his first of the season. Connor Powers drove in the second run of the inning as Luke Adkins scored on a double down the left-field line.
TAMUCC added single runs in the seventh and eighth innings that proved crucial. Omar Garcia led off the seventh with a triple past the diving Ryan Collins in center field. He was plated on a sacrifice fly by Vergne. Damon led off the eighth with a double and scored on a two-out single by Omar Garcia for an 8-3 lead.
After a perfect eighth by Chris Pena, the lefty struggled in the final frame. He started off the inning allowing a single to Wes Thigpen who came off the bench. Pena then loaded the bases after walking Vickerson and hitting Adkins.
Phillip Garcia entered and forced Powers, who entered with seven home runs and 30 runs batted in, to pop up to Ege in shallow center. Catcher Cody Freeman lined a single to left to plate a pair of runs. Jet Butler made it a two-run game with a hit up the middle. Garcia, however, earned his first save by getting Jet Butler to pop out to Ege, while Russ Sneed flew out to left.
Orr went seven solid innings, scattering eight hits allowing three runs while striking out four and walking two. Pena allowed three runs on one hit, a walk and hit batter.
Jones suffered the loss as he permitted six runs with four earned on seven hits in 4-1/3 innings of work.
In the second game, Mississippi State struck first with a run in the top of the first. Vickerson led off the game with a double. He would score on a two-out single by Freeman.
In the bottom of the first, the Islanders responded with two runs to take the lead. Garcia and Montgomery drew walks to start the inning off starter Luke Bole who would last one inning as he struggled with his footing on the Whataburger Field mound. Hernandez singled to right driving in Garcia with Buckner driving in Montgomery.
Islander starter Liedka and MSU reliever Caleb Reed would engage in a tremendous pitching duel.
Neither team would score again until Powers deposited Liedka pitch into the batter's eye in center.
Liedka strikeout an Islander season high eight batters but he didn't figure into the game two decision.
The teams battled into extra innings as Mississippi State's Powers reached base with a walk and moved into scoring position on a wild pitch from Roman Madrid, who would be the credited with the loss. MSU's Cody Freeman broke the tie singling up the middle giving the Bulldogs a 3-2 advantage; the visitors added an extra run going up by two runs.
After back-to-back outs to start the bottom of the tenth, Hernandez walked allowing the tying run to come to the plate in pinch hitter Caleb Marx. The junior hit into a fielder's choice promptly ending the contest and TAMUCC rally.
"Things got away from us a little bit in the bullpen and we are trying to figure those things out," said Malone. "We have some talented guys, we just need to figure out who fits in what role.
"I expect us to be an offensive club. We pitched too well tonight to get out-hit in the second game. They didn't send anyone out who was overpowering."
Next up will be a Wednesday afternoon 2 p.m. make-up game at Chapman Field against Houston Baptist.