The Texas A&M - Corpus Christi baseball team scored five runs in the top of the fourth inning and held on late in a 6-4 victory over Sam Houston State on Saturday. With the series sweep, the Islanders finished 34-22 overall (19-14 Southland) to set a new school record for wins.
By virtue of the victory and the Northwestern State-Southeastern Louisiana game being rained out, the Islanders will be the No. 3 seed in next week's Southland Conference Tournament, beginning on Wednesday, May 25. Texas A&M - Corpus Christi will face No. 6 UTSA on Wednesday at 9 a.m. in the first game of the tourney.
The Islanders jumped out to a 6-1 lead in the fifth inning, then held on to strand the tying run on second base in the bottom of the ninth. Junior Philip Garcia finished the game for his sixth save of the year, setting a new school record with eight saves in his career. Justin Meza (4-3) collected the win by scattering six hits in five innings of work. Adam Hoelscher, Chris Pena and Garcia combined to allow just three hits over four innings of work out of the pen.
Jeramie Marek, Trey Hernandez and Matt Holland each had two hits in the win, with Hernandez scoring twice. Holland finishes the regular season with a .401 average heading into the tournament. Kevin Miller and Daniel Nottebart each had three hits in a losing effort for the Bearkats.
SHSU struck first with a two-out rally in the opening frame. Chris Andreas delivered a double into the right-field corner, and Miller followed by grounding a ball up the middle to plate Andreas for a 1-0 lead, SHSU's first advantage of the series.
After he delivered three stellar innings, the Islanders exploded off Bearkat starter Caleb Smith in the fourth. Marek and Hernandez each delivered line-drive singles, then Holland sliced a single to left to plate Marek and tie the game 1-1. Jacob Perales loaded the bags with a bunt single, and Chris Vergne drew a bases-loaded walk to give the Islanders a 2-1 lead. Omar Garcia followed, and he cleared the bags with a double into the left-field corner to make it 5-1 in favor of the visitors.
Texas A&M - Corpus Christi added another run in the top of the fifth. Hernandez drew a one-out walk, and he advanced to third when Holland executed a hit-and-run to put runners on the corners. Reliever Brent Powers was then called for a balk on an attempted pickoff move, scoring Hernandez for a 6-1 Islanders lead.
The Bearkats got a pair of unearned runs back in the bottom of the fifth to trim it to 6-3, then loaded the bases with nobody out in the sixth. Hoelscher came in and allowed a single to make it 6-4, but followed that up with a strikeout and two foulouts to end the inning with the bases loaded. The Bearkats got two on and nobody out in the ninth, but after a sacrifice, Garcia got a punchout and a lineout to end the game.
For the Islanders, the third-place finish clinches their best conference record in school history. The Islanders will now head to the Southland Conference Tournament, hosted by Texas State in San Marcos. For tickets, go to Southland.org. Live audio and statistics for all games in the tournament will be available on GoIslanders.com, while live video will be available on Southland.org via SLC Now.