Corpus Christi, TX • Chapman Field (500)
LIVE VIDEO/STATISTICS: GoIslanders.com
Friday, May 13 • 2 p.m.
ISLANDERS: RHP Justin Meza (3-3, 5.43) | NWST: RHP Luke Irvine (6-5, 3.58)
Saturday, May 14 • 2 p.m.
ISLANDERS: RHP Ian Campbell (6-4, 3.76) | NWST: LHP Colin Bear (2-4, 3.36)
Sunday, May 15 • 1 p.m.
ISLANDERS: LHP Todd Simko (8-6, 5.10) | NWST: TBA
THE FIRST PITCH
The Texas A&M - Corpus Christi baseball team returns home for its final set of games at Chapman Field this season. The Islanders have won seven in a row heading into this weekend's set against Northwestern State, one of just seven teams in the nation with an active winning streak of seven games or more.
After sitting in 11th place at 7-13 heading into the final game at Southeastern Louisiana, the Islanders have rebounded to put up a 14-13 conference mark and climb into the driver's seat in the race for the Southland Conference Tournament. Texas A&M - Corpus Christi needs just one win to become the third 30-win squad in school history and is just four wins shy of matching the school's all-time mark, set in 2003.
Northwestern State is on a long road trip, though rain cancelled its game on Wednesday night in Waco. After starting the year 3-14 in conference action, the Demons have gone 6-4 in their last 10 conference contests to stay alive in the hunt for the postseason. Most recently, NSU has won series at Lamar and vs. Central Arkansas, and also took one of three against Texas State in Natchitoches.
THE ALL-TIME SERIES
The Islanders coaching staff will be looking to register its first win over Northwestern State, as Scott Malone is 0-9 against the Demons. The fourth-year head coach had been winless against UTA before sweeping the Mavericks last weekend. Overall, the Islanders are 4-13 against NSU, including a 1-11 mark in Southland play, the lone win coming in 2007.
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 21 multi-hit games and 15 contests with more than one RBI. With 17 two-baggers, he is just three shy of the season record.
Over the last 25 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 25, and he has a .656 slugging percentage in that stretch. His 22 RBI in that time are seven more than any other Islanders player.
Two weeks ago, he really heated up, stroking a home run at Rice and then hitting another homer in the three-game series at Southeastern. This weekend at UT Arlington, he delivered three hits in each of the three games against the Mavs.
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 three 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 three outings, he has forced 33 groundballs to just 12 flyouts over 21 2/3 innings. Even more impressive, he has allowed just 12 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 tied for the league lead with his eight wins and has tossed 72 1/3 innings on the year with a 5.10 ERA.
The Islanders' three-game sweep of UT Arlington lifted the team back toward the top half of the Southland Conference. Texas A&M - Corpus Christi notched its fourth sweep this season, joining the brooms that were brought out against Central Arkansas, McNeese State and Nicholls. Conversely, though, the Islanders have been on the other end of the stick three times, having been swept by Texas State, Stephen F. Austin and UTSA in 2011.