Arlington, TX • Clay Gould Ballpark (1,600)
LIVE AUDIO/STATISTICS: GoIslanders.com
Friday, May 6 • 6:30 p.m.
ISLANDERS: RHP Justin Meza (2-3, 5.43) | UTA: RHP Lance Day (3-5, 3.07)
Saturday, May 7 • 2 p.m.
ISLANDERS: RHP Ian Campbell (5-4, 3.87) | UTA: LHP Calan Pritchard (3-3, 4.89)
Sunday, May 8 • 1 p.m.
ISLANDERS: LHP Todd Simko (7-6, 5.27) | UTA: TBA
THE FIRST PITCH
The Texas A&M - Corpus Christi baseball team heads north for a road series at UT Arlington this weekend. The Islanders have won four straight Southland games to infuse themselves back into the race for the conference tournament. UTA is just two games ahead of the Islanders in a tie for fourth in the conference.
The Islanders are coming off a series sweep of Central Arkansas last weekend. Even though the wind was hitter-friendly all weekend, the hurlers allowed UCA to hit just .245 and score 11 runs in the three-game set. The Islanders bats came alive, though, hitting .330 with 24 runs. The contributions were from across the board, as six different batters had at least three hits in the series.
The Mavericks enter this weekend after falling in a midweek affair at Louisiana Tech on Tuesday night. Tech scored two runs in the bottom of the eighth to come away with a 7-5 victory. Contrary to the Islanders, UTA has not swept a single weekend series, nor has it been swept this year. Last weekend, Stephen F. Austin took two of three from the Mavs in Nacogdoches.
THE ALL-TIME SERIES
The Mavericks have dominated the all-time series against the Islanders, holding a 13-6 lead on their counterparts from the South. Since Scott Malone took over, his former employer has won all nine meetings, including six in Arlington, though four of those were one-run affairs. The Islanders swept the Mavs in Corpus Christi in the 2007 campaign in addition to a 3-4 record against UTA in non-conference action.
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 18 multi-hit games and 15 contests with more than one RBI. With 15 two-baggers, he is just five shy of the season record.
Over the last 20 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 20, and he has a .681 slugging percentage in that stretch. His 20 RBI in that time are double that of any other player.
Two weeks ago, 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.
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 has rebounded in a huge way over the last two weeks. In the finale with Central Arkansas, he fanned seven Bears without issuing a walk, and went the distance in the run-rule shortened affair. He allowed just three hits in the game.
At Southeastern, 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 the Lions. 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 last two outings, he has forced 27 groundballs to just four flyouts over 16 innings. Even more impressive, he has allowed just five hits.
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. He followed that up by saving the Islanders' win at Texas.
Simko, who has touched 94 on the radar gun this season, tossed eight strong innings to defeat Nicholls, punching out seven. He is second in the league with his seven wins and has tossed 66 2/3 innings on the year with a 5.27 ERA.