Whataburger Field (7,400) • Corpus Christi, Texas
LIVE VIDEO/STATS: GoIslanders.com
Friday, March 25 • 6:30 p.m.
ISLANDERS: LHP Todd Simko (3-2, 3.82) | MCNEESE STATE: RHP Zach Butler (3-0, 3.18)
Saturday, March 26 • 2 p.m.
ISLANDERS: RHP Ian Campbell (3-1, 3.00) | MCNEESE STATE: RHP Matt Click (2-1, 3.45)
Sunday, March 27 • 1 p.m.
ISLANDERS: RHP Justin Meza (2-1, 4.71) | MCNEESE STATE: LHP Phil Parcell (2-1, 6.39)
THE FIRST PITCH
Winners of four straight and five of six, the Texas A&M - Corpus Christi baseball team takes on conference foe McNeese State for a three-game series at Whataburger Field this weekend. The Islanders come in with a 16-8 overall record (3-3 Southland), while McNeese sits at 13-9 (4-2).
Texas A&M - Corpus Christi is coming off a 7-1 win over UT Brownsville on Tuesday in which nine different pitchers combined to allow six hits (all singles) and one run. The Islanders offense was buoyed by Trey Hernandez and Caleb Marx, who each hit a home run and had three RBI, and Jacob Perales, who had two hits to raise his team-leading average to .410 on the season. Prior to the game against UTB/TSC, the Islanders swept a weekend series at Nicholls over the weekend and scored 14 runs in the ninth inning of those three games.
McNeese has had a pair of impressive conference weekends, taking two of three at home against Northwestern State and on the road at Southeastern Louisiana to start out with a 4-2 record. McNeese has also split two games with Houston and two at Arkansas this year. The Cowboys are coming off a 10-8 win over Southern on Wednesday night in Lake Charles.
THE ALL-TIME SERIES
The Islanders are 3-9 all-time against the Cowboys, all since joining the Southland Conference. McNeese has won four in a row against the Islanders, including a three-game sweep last year in Lake Charles. Texas A&M - Corpus Christi has a 1-5 record against McNeese in the Coastal Bend.
SCOUTING THE COWBOYS
McNeese State enters this weekend with a 13-9 record and a 4-2 mark in conference play. In addition to series wins over Northwestern State and Southeastern Louisiana, the Cowboys have split two-game series with Houston and Arkansas this season.
The Cowboys boast an impressive offense that has a .293 average and has scored 147 runs on the season. Lee Orr leads the way with a .375 mark and 11 doubles, while Renny Weber is also hitting .375.
On the mound, the Cowboys have a collective 4.98 ERA. Zach Butler is the top starter with a 3.18 ERA and 31 punchouts in 34 innings, while relievers Jordan Legros (0.63) and John Tatum (1.17) have posted strong numbers out of the pen.
THE RIGHTY STICK
Somewhat overshadowed by Matt Holland, Trey Hernandez and Week 1 Southland Conference Hitter of the Week Chris Vergne, righty Jacob Perales has arguably been the team's best hitter in the first 24 games. The Moody High alum leads the team with a .410 average and 27 RBI to go along with three home runs.
Perales' performance last week earned him SLC honorable mention. The senior hit .429 with 11 RBI in five games, including eight RBI in the series at Nicholls. His best game of the season saw him go 3-for-5 with five RBI to lead the Islanders in Saturday's 12-1 rout. The Corpus Christi native now has 19 career home runs to place him sixth in Islanders lore.
With a 16-8 start, the Islanders are off to their best opening since 2003. That has led to impressive numbers in the Ratings Percentage Index according to RPI gurus Warren Nolan and Boyd Nation. The Islanders opened the week 50th in Nolan's calculations and 49th according to Boyd's World.
Texas A&M - Corpus Christi is 3-5 against teams in the top 50 of the RPI, with wins over Texas (20), Oregon State (23) and Texas Tech (47). Only one of the Islanders' defeats has come at the hands of a team outside the top 80, with that to preseason top-10 squad Connecticut.
Coming into the 2011 campaign, senior Ian Campbell's role on the team was expected to be a bullpen pitcher who provided depth to the staff. But his performance as of late has earned him a spot in the weekend rotation.
In eight appearances, including five starts, Campbell has a 3-1 record and a staff-leading 3.00 ERA. The senior, who throws four pitches for strikes, has allowed less than one hit per inning. Far more impressive have been his 33 strikeouts to just 10 walks over 36 frames on the season. He earned honorable mention from the Southland after going seven innings and scattering four hits on Saturday against Nicholls.
The soft-spoken Glendale, Ariz., native played two years at Yavapai Junior College before transfering to the Island University prior to the 2010 season. He went 3-5 with an 8.17 ERA in 2010 for the Islanders.
With a three-game sweep of Nicholls, the Islanders earned their first conference sweep of the 2011 season and first since 2008, when they posted a road sweep at Stephen F. Austin in April of that season. The Islanders have already won as many road games in conference play as they did a year ago (three) and have nearly doubled their overall road output with nine wins (five in 2010).
Heading into the season, the coaching staff identified Matt Holland as the hottest hitter on the team, and he has not disappointed to this juncture. Holland, who leads the conference in hits, is in the Southland's top 10 in average, doubles, triples and total bases on the year.
Over the weekend at Nicholls, he quietly hit .400 with a pair of runs and a pair of RBI on the weekend. He hit three of the Islanders' five doubles, with Weston Montgomery delivering the other two. He also took one for the team when it counted on Friday, as he was hit by a pitch while behind in the count to load the bases en route to putting the Islanders on top.
But his performance against Texas Tech on March 12 was by far his most impressive of the season. The senior went 4-for- 6 and hit for the Islanders' first cycle of the season and the first since Jacob Perales turned the trick against UTPA last year. Needing a longball to complete the trick with two down in the ninth and the bases loaded, Holland ripped a 2-0 pitch over the wall in right for a grand slam.
NINTH INNING MAGIC
The Islanders wound up with a series sweep at Nicholls, but the results could have been far different if it hadn't been for some ninth-inning heroics by the team's bats.
Down 4-3 on Friday, Texas A&M - Corpus Christi scored four in the top of the ninth to register the victory. Though the outcome was not in doubt, the Islanders added four more on Saturday in a 12-1 win. Then on Sunday, with the score knotted up at 2-2, the Islanders put a six-spot on the board to lift them to an 8-3 victory.
On the series, the Islanders scored 14 runs in the ninth inning, despite the fact that they had tallied just eight in the ninth in the prior 20 games.