Whataburger Field (7,400) • Chapman Field (500)
Corpus Christi, Texas
LIVE VIDEO/STATS: GoIslanders.com
Friday, March 4 • 6:30 p.m. • Whataburger
ISLANDERS: LHP Todd Simko (1-1, 1.86) | TXST: RHP Carson Smith (0-1, 5.40)
Saturday, March 5 • 2 p.m. • Chapman
ISLANDERS: RHP Justin Meza (2-1, 5.25) | TXST: RHP Mitchell Pitts (2-0, 1.50)
Sunday, March 6 • 1 p.m. • Whataburger
ISLANDERS: RHP Brett Carnline (1-0, 3.86) | TXST: LHP Colton Turner (2-0, 4.22)
THE FIRST PITCH
With an 8-2 record, the Texas A&M - Corpus Christi enters conference play this weekend with a three-game series against preseason conference favorite Texas State in Corpus Christi. Friday's and Sunday's games will be held at Whataburger Field, while the middle contest will take place on campus at Chapman Field.
The Islanders' 8-2 mark is the best record that the team has held heading into conference play in school history. The 2007 team opened 9-0, but went 2-9 after that to enter Southland action at 11-9 overall. Last season's squad went 5-2 before opening at Texas State.
Most recently, the Islanders swept a doubleheader from Houston Baptist on Tuesday, winning games by scores of 8-3 and 13-3. Ian Campbell and Roy Ferdin were both strong in starting performances, and the bullpen combined to allow three runs over six innings. Four different hurlers posted scoreless outings in the double dip. Trey Hernandez was the offensive star, driving in four runs in game one with his 40th career homer.
The Bobcats enter the weekend at 5-2 after an impressive, 13-2 thrashing of Baylor on Tuesday. The Bobcats banged out 16 hits and put crooked numbers on the board in five different innings. Their two losses have come to Missouri State and Rice this season. Six different starters are hitting over .300 for Texas State, and Casey Kalenkosky has hit three home runs this year. The Bobcats have posted a team ERA of 4.43.
THE ALL-TIME SERIES
The Islanders are 6-21 all-time against the Bobcats, including a 2-10 mark since joining the Southland and a 1-8 record in Scott Malone's tenure. Last year, the Bobcats took two of three in San Marcos, including a heartbreaking 5-3 loss in the series opener. The Islanders also won game two, 10-8. Texas A&M - Corpus Christi is 3-7 all-time against the Bobcats at home.
Texas A&M - Corpus Christi's 8-2 start is one of the best in school history, particularly considering that the Islanders have faced four teams that were projected to make the NCAA Tournament by College Baseball Daily. The Islanders were recently mentioned by Baseball America's Aaron Fitt in his Three Strikes column as a team flying under the radar.
KNOCKING OFF THE BIG BOYS
The Islanders' win over No. 6 Texas last Tuesday marked the highest ranked opponent that they have beaten since a season-opening victory over the No. 1 Longhorns on Feb. 5, 2003. The Islanders fell to No. 14 Connecticut on Sunday, giving them a 1-1 record against teams ranked in the top 30. Last year, the Islanders went 2-3 against ranked foes, winning two of three from Southeastern Louisiana but falling twice to UT.
Senior first baseman Trey Hernandez has gotten out to a hot start at the plate, and his performance last week was worthy of mention. Though the senior did not hit a home, he did drill four doubles over last week's four contests for the Islanders. He was named to CollegeBaseball 360's Weekly Honor Roll for his efforts.
Against Houston Baptist, the righty slugger hit his first longball of the season, drilling a ball over the wall in left. The homer was the righty's 40th career bomb, adding to his school record. He is also the school's all-time leader in RBI (160) and will look to make a run at 50 homers and 200 driven in in his senior campaign. The Robstown native was a Louisville Slugger Freshman All-American in 2008 and has earned Southland Player of the Week honors twice in his career.
Alvin Community College transfer Michael Boyle had an exceptional day on Saturday, Feb. 19, against MVSU. The Houston native closed out both of the Islanders wins in the doubleheader, earning the first two saves of his career.
He followed that up with 1 2/3 innings of shutout ball to set up Todd Simko against Texas. In the win over Oregon State, he proved his gutsiest, punching out four in 1 2/3 and stranding the tying run on third. He struck out the side in the ninth to send the crowd of 3,000-plus to its feet in sealing the win. He also tossed an inning in the doubleheader sweep of HBU.
With his three saves, he has already moved into a tie for fifth on the Islanders' all-time single-season list. Current teammate Philip Garcia led the team with two saves in 2010, while Trey Hernandez had four in 2009.
In his Islanders debut, Cuesta College transfer Todd Simko was spectacular, punching out seven Delta Devils against no walks in earning his first career victory. The junior surrendered just three singles and four baserunners over his five innings of work. The southpaw allowed just one flyout, a popup to second, as opposed to six groundouts.
With the game on the line against Texas, the Islanders again called on Simko. With the visitors on top 8-7, Simko got the ball in the closer's role after normal closer Michael Boyle got the call in a tense situation in the seventh. Simko retired the first two men in quick succession, then, after an error put the tying run on second, coolly induced a popup to left to end the game.
Simko's numbers were less impressive against Indiana, surrendering four hits in 3 2/3, but he was victimized by three Islanders errors behind him in the first inning. In 9 2/3 innings of work, he has allowed just seven hits and three walks this season.
Making his first collegiate start, freshman Justin Meza showed no fear going against No. 6 Texas. The Moody High graduate punched out seven Longhorns and allowed two hits over 5 1/3 innings of work.
He followed that up with a more controlled outing, dropping his walk output to just three, but he also punched out eight in five innings against Connecticut. He wound up on the wrong end of a pitcher's duel, though, collecting the loss.
Meza, who also pitched 1 2/3 innings in relief against MVSU, sat out last year as a non-qualifier and worked solely on his academics. He was an all-state selection and the All-South Texas MVP in 2009.