April 28, 2011

Islanders Host Bears in Crucial Series at Chapman

CENTRAL ARKANSAS (19-21, 9-12 SOUTHLAND) AT TEXAS A&M - CORPUS CHRISTI (23-21, 8-13)

Corpus Christi, TX • Chapman Field (500)
LIVE VIDEO/STATISTICS: GoIslanders.com

Friday, April 29 • 2 p.m.
ISLANDERS: RHP Justin Meza (2-3, 5.53) | UCA: RHP Ryan Angus (3-2, 4.50)

Saturday, April 30 • 2 p.m.
ISLANDERS: RHP Ian Campbell (5-4, 3.88) | UCA: LHP Dustin Ward (6-3, 5.07)

Sunday, May 1 • 1 p.m.
ISLANDERS: LHP Todd Simko (6-6, 5.58)| UCA: RHP Ethan McKinzie (0-0, 6.08)


THE FIRST PITCH
The Texas A&M - Corpus Christi baseball team plays host to a crucial series in the race for the Southland Conference Tournament this weekend, as Central Arkansas comes to Chapman Field for a three-game set. The Islanders are 8-13 in conference play, just a game behind UCA, which is in a four-way tie with Lamar, McNeese State and Nicholls for seventh in the league.

The Islanders are coming off a resounding 7-1 win in the series finale over Southeastern Louisiana, a victory that stopped a nine-game skid for Texas A&M - Corpus Christi. Todd Simko tossed a complete-game two hitter, forcing 16 groundouts on the day, while Matt Holland and Sean Washington each hit home runs. Central Arkansas enters this weekend 19-21 overall after losing two of three at home to UT Arlington. The Bears split a doubleheader with the Mavs on Friday before falling, 8-4, in Saturday's finale.

THE ALL-TIME SERIES
The Islanders have gone 5-5-2 against Central Arkansas, as two of the three ties in program history have come against the Bears. In 2008 and 2010, the series finale against UCA had to be cut short because of travel plans, and in both series the teams had a rare 1-1-1 series split. This season should have decisions across the board with the Bears scheduled to bus in to Corpus Christi. In 2009, the Islanders took two of three from UCA, giving them a 4-3-2 mark in Scott Malone's tenure. Allen Gum is in his first year at UCA after an impressive five years at Southern Arkansas.

SPEAK SOFTLY, AND CARRY A BIG STICK
Teddy Roosevelt wasn't speaking of senior Matt Holland when he uttered that, but there may be no phrase that applies better for the Watkins, Iowa, native. Holland, who is in the Southland's top 10 in average, doubles, triples and home runs on the year, is a very measured individual. And though he is an important leader for the Islanders, he does so by example.

He leads the team with his 17 multi-hit games and 14 contests with more than one RBI. With 15 two-baggers, he is just five shy of the season record.

Over the last 16 games, his power numbers have started to skyrocket, as he now has eight home runs on the year. Six of his eight longballs have come in the last 16, and he has a .745 slugging percentage in that stretch. His 16 RBI in that time are more than double that of any other player.

Last weekend, he really heated up, stroking a home run at Rice and then hitting a second homer - though it was inaccurately ruled a double - in the Thursday night game at Southeastern. He added another bomb in Sunday's finale.

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 feat 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 to finish off the cycle.

SIZZLING SIMKO
Todd Simko came into the spring with lofty expectations after being named the opening day starter. And after starting red-hot out of the gate, the lefty fell into a bit of a funk, where seemingly every borderline play or call didn't go his way.

But he rebounded in a huge way on Saturday. The junior allowed just one hit over the first eight innings en route to a complete-game two-hitter in a 7-1 win over Southeastern Louisiana. The big lefty struck out just three opposing batters, but got the Lions to pound the ball down with 16 groundouts, including two double plays, in the game.

In his debut on Feb. 18, Simko was spectacular, punching out seven MVSU hitters 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 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, who has touched 94 on the radar gun this season, tossed eight strong innings to defeat Nicholls, punching out seven. He is third in the league with his six wins and has tossed 59 2/3 innings on the year with a 5.58 ERA.

CAMPBELL'S COMPOSURE
Coming into 2011, senior Ian Campbell's role on the team was expected to provide depth to the staff. But his performance as of late has earned him a spot as one of the top two starters on the team.

Campbell showed his worthiness for that selection on April 8, as he tossed a four-hit shutout at Lamar. It was the first complete-game shutout for the Islanders since Roy Ferdin had one in 2008. Campbell did not allow a runner past second base until the ninth inning, and finished off the affair by getting Ted Zentek to go down swinging.

In 13 appearances, including 10 starts, Campbell is 5-4 with a staff-leading 3.88 ERA. The senior, who throws four pitches for strikes, has allowed less than one hit per inning and has 52 strikeouts in 67 1/3.

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.

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 been among the team's best hitters this season. Though he has recently been in a slump at the plate, the Moody High alum is second on the team with a .344 average to go along with a team-leading .448 on-base percentage. He is among the team leaders with three homers, 28 runs, seven doubles and 33 RBI.

Perales' performance at Nicholls and the Texas Tech Invitational 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.