The Texas A&M-Corpus Christi baseball team heads to Northwestern State for a crucial three-game series as the Islanders continue to chase a spot in the upcoming Southland Conference Baseball Tournament at Whataburger Field at the end of May.
The Islanders are coming off a weekend series with Central Arkansas that saw the teams each win a game and then tie the final game of the series. A&M-Corpus Christi is now sitting at 19-28-1 overall and 9-17-1 in the Southland Conference.
With two Southland Conference series remaining beginning with the Demons, the Islanders stand 1-1/2 games out of the eighth and final spot for the conference tournament. Nicholls, who the Islanders beat in 2-of-3 games, is currently eighth at 11-16 in the league. Sam Houston State, who the Islanders close out the regular season against at home, is tenth with a 9-18 mark, while UTSA is 8-19.
"We still have a good opportunity if we play our best baseball of the season these next six games to make a push to get into the tournament," said Islander head coach Scott Malone.
The Islanders are slated to send three lefties to the mound. Adam Hoelscher, who is 2-1 with a team-best 3.89 ERA, mark will make his fifth start in the opener. Jake Liedka will start on Saturday, while Ferdin will start the finale on Sunday. Liedka and Ferdin share the team lead with Ian Campbell for wins with three. Chris Pena shares the league lead for appearances with 25.
The Islanders enter the weekend fifth in the Southland Conference in hitting with a .312 average. Eight Islanders are hitting over .300 with four over .344. Matt Holland and Caleb Marx lead the team at .372 and .363, respectively. Trey Hernandez, who is hitting .345, leads the SLC with 58 RBI, is tied for second with 14 home runs, and is second with 113 total bases.
Northwestern State sits fifth at 16-10 in the Southland Conference just behind UT Arlington which is 17-10. The Demons, who lost 8-5 on Wednesday to Mississippi State, stand at 29-19 overall.
"We have a lot of respect for Northwestern State," said Malone. "Every year they are in the top half of the league and have a lot of tradition. They expect to win.
"To go to Northwestern needing to win a series is definitely a challenge. It will be as tough of a weekend as we have had all year. We need to go out and play the best baseball we can play."
The Demons, who boast the top pitching team in the Southland Conference with a 3.92 ERA in all games and a 3.21 mark in SLC play, will send Ryan Zimmerman to the mound Friday and Luke Irvine on Saturday. Sunday's starter has not been named. Irvine is second in the league with a 2.85 ERA, while Zimmerman is seventh at 3.27. Out of the bullpen, Chad Sheppard is tied for the league lead in saves with nine.
Offensively, the Demons are second in the Southland with a .320 mark. Eric DeBlanc, who currently has a 21-game hitting streak, has a .388 average on the year and is the top hitter other than Michael Choice. Oscar Garcia is fourth with a .376 average, while second in hits with 74. Chase Lyles is second with 23 stolen bases.
Live stats and audio will be available on www.goislanders.com.