Huntsville, TX • Sanders Stadium (1163)
LIVE AUDIO/STATISTICS: GoIslanders.com
Thursday, May 19 • 6:30 p.m.
ISLANDERS: RHP Ian Campbell (7-4, 3.61) | SHSU: RHP Brandon Kimbrel (6-3, 3.62)
Friday, May 20 • 6:30 p.m.
ISLANDERS: LHP Todd Simko (8-6, 5.15) | SHSU: RHP Matt Shelton (7-1, 2.92)
Saturday, May 21 • 1 p.m.
ISLANDERS: RHP Justin Meza (3-3, 5.60) | SHSU: LHP Caleb Smith (4-2, 2.73)
THE FIRST PITCH
Despite falling in the series finale to Northwestern State, the Texas A&M - Corpus Christi baseball team has clinched a spot in the 2011 Southland Conference Tournament by virtue of Sunday losses by UT Arlington and Nicholls. It is the first time that the Islanders have made it to the postseason since 2008, the first season of Scott Malone's tenure. The Islanders have already set a school record with 16 conference wins and are two away from matching the mark for overall wins, set by the 2003 squad.
Texas A&M - Corpus Christi sits in fifth place in the Southland with a 16-14 mark, having won nine of their last 10 contests and garnering three straight series wins. The Islanders are 15-10 overall on the road, including an 8-7 conference mark in away contests.
Sam Houston State enters this weekend 34-19 overall and 17-13 in league play, just a game ahead of the Islanders. The Bearkats have lost two of the last three series, at Central Arkansas and vs. Southeastern Louisiana, but swept Stephen F. Austin on the road in the other set. This weekend marks the final home series for SHSU skipper Mark Johnson, winner of over 1,000 games in his career.
THE ALL-TIME SERIES
The Islanders are 13-11 all-time against their rivals to the north. SHSU has taken the last two season series, though the Islanders won two of three from the Bearkats in 2008. SHSU got the last laugh, though, winning a pair of contests over the Islanders in that year's conference tournament. Scott Malone is 4-7 against the Bearkats in his Islanders tenure.
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, home runs and RBI on the year, is a measured individual. And though he is an important leader for the Islanders, he does so by example.
As of late, his performance at the plate has been nothing short of incredible. He has a 10-game hitting streak, his longest of the season, to raise his average to .395, second in the Southland. In his streak, he is hitting an amazing .512 with three doubles, three homers and 10 RBI.
The left fielder is second in the league with his 81 hits, leads the way with 135 total bases and is the only player in the league's top five in average, doubles and home runs.
In the series at UT Arlington, he had three hits in every game and was 9-for-13 on the weekend. He had three-hit games in the Friday and Sunday affairs with Northwestern State as well, giving him 16 hits over the last six contests.
With his performance this season, he is knocking on the door of the Islanders' career record books. He is just two doubles away from tying the school record, 13 total bases from matching the Islanders mark, and is just the eighth Islander with 10-plus bombs. The Iowa Southeastern CC transfer originally came to the Islanders as a pitcher, but transformed to a full-time hitter after suffering an elbow injury.
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 the team's number one starter heading into this weekend.
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.
Last time out, the soft-spoken native of Glendale, Ariz., struck out a career-high 10 batters in six innings of work against Northwestern State. He scattered eight hits and just one of the three runs he allowed was earned.
In 16 appearances, including 13 starts, Campbell is 7-4 with a staff-leading 3.61 ERA. The senior, who throws four pitches for strikes, has allowed just 31 walks in 87 1/3 innings of work, and opponents are hitting just .277 off of him.
A LOOK AT THE SOUTHLAND RACE
With one series still remaining, very little remains settled in the Southland Conference race. Texas State has clinched the crown, but the Islanders, who currently sit fifth in the standings, could finish anywhere from second to eighth. At 16-14, the Islanders are just one game behind a third-place tie between SHSU and Southeastern Louisiana. The Islanders are two games clear of a three-way tie for sixth between Lamar, UTSA and McNeese State.
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 four 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 four outings, he is 3-0 with a 2.89 ERA. He has surrendered just 16 hits in 28.0 innings, a .162 average against. He has punched out 20 men to just 10 walks allowed.
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 78 2/3 innings on the year with a 5.15 ERA.
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. The Moody High alum broke out of a recent slump with five hits and five runs in the series against UCA.
The Corpus Christi native has quietly assembled an 11-game hitting streak to raise his average to .356, second on the team. He has also drawn 28 walks on the year for a .450 on-base percentage. His 13 doubles are second on the team, and he slugged his 20th career homer in the opener with Northwestern State. Earlier this season, the righty reached base in 28 straight games to post an average over .400 a month into the season.
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.