Offense Rallies to Send Baseball Past SFA in Series Opener

CORPUS CHRISTI – Brandon Guilford's RBI fielder's choice in the bottom of the eighth broke an 8-8 tie to lift the Texas A&M-Corpus Christi baseball team to a 9-8 victory over Stephen F. Austin on Friday night at Chapman Field. The Islanders improved to 7-3 in Southland play with their seventh straight victory.

Guilford's grounder followed a huge hit by Russell Vaughan with one away in the eighth. The senior ripped a pitch into the right-center gap and motored around to third with his second triple of the season. Guilford then hit a two-hopper to second and Vaughan beat the throw to the plate to put the Islanders ahead in a back-and-forth affair. In the ninth, SFA got a leadoff single, but Kaleb Keith worked around it to close out the victory.

Keith improved to 3-2 with the win out of the pen, while Patrick Ledet collected a tough-luck loss for the Lumberjacks (13-15, 4-6 Southland). Starters Matt Danton (5 innings pitched, five earned runs) and Cameron Gann (5.1 IP, 6 ER) each was carded with a no-decision.

Kyle Danford went 2-for-3 with three runs scored, while Tyler Ware and Vaughan each had two hits and scored a pair of runs for the Islanders. Nick Ramos went 4-for-5 in a losing effort for SFA, while Mackenzie Handel was 3-for-5 with a home run and four RBIs.

A&M-Corpus Christi struck first with a pair of runs in the bottom of the second, using small ball to take a 2-0 lead. Frankie Salas started the rally with a single to right center, and then Danford followed with a walk. Two batters later, Zack Gibson earned a free pass of his own with one away to load the bases. Russell Vaughan followed by lifting a flare to shallow right center that fell in for an RBI fielder's choice that plated Salas. The Islanders added a double steal to plate Danford and make it a 2-0 edge for the home squad.

But SFA came right back with a pair of runs of its own in the top of the third with a two-out rally. With Rick Cruz on first and two away, Ricardo Sanchez rolled a single through the left side to put two on and two away. Marberry followed by roping a ball into the right-center gap to plate both runs and make it a 2-2 ballgame.

The Islanders were able to counter with two runs in the bottom of the fourth to regain a 4-2 lead by way of a two-out rally. Danford started the rally with a rolling single through the left side, and Ware followed by launching a ball into right center for an RBI triple to plate the Islanders' third run. On the next pitch, Gibson ripped one over the first baseman's head and into the right-field corner to make it a 4-2 contest.

In the top of the sixth, SFA caught fire against starter Danton, delivering four straight hits to tie the game and chase Danton from the contest. Tyler Schnuriger came on and surrendered an RBI groundout, but he finished the inning on a 4-6-3 double play from the Jacks' leading hitter, Mackenzie Handel, to end the frame with the Islanders down just 5-4.

But A&M-Corpus Christi came back in a big way, plating a four-spot in the bottom of the sixth. After the leadoff man flew out, the next six batters reached for the Islanders. Back-to-back singles put runners at the corners, and Gibson followed by dropping down a bunt. The throw came to the plate, forcing Danford to scamper back to third, and the catcher's throw to the bag went wide, allowing the junior to come home with the tying run.

Vaughan followed, and the senior delivered a chopper over the first baseman's head to plate Ware and make it 6-5, putting runners at second and third. Dominic Lopez followed as a pinch-hitter, and the sophomore ripped a single up the middle to score a pair of runs and make it an 8-5 ballgame.

SFA came right back with a run in the top of the seventh on three straight hits, but the tandem of Kevin Landgrebe and Keith emerged with no further damage. Then in the top of the eighth, Sanchez delivered a single up the middle with one away, and Handel followed by drilling a shot to center for his eighth home run of the year to tie the score at 8-8, setting up Vaughan's heroics.

The Islanders and Lumberjacks will continue this weekend's series on Saturday at 5 p.m. ats Chapman Field. Trevor Belicek (1-4, 4.09 ERA) will get the ball for the Islanders, while Dillon Mangham (4-2, 3.05) takes the hill for SFA. Live video and stats will be available on GoIslanders.com and updates will be provided on Twitter (@IslandersBSB).