CONWAY, Ark. – The Texas A&M – Corpus Christi baseball team's season came to a close Friday, as it fell to McNeese State 7-5 in an elimination game in the Southland Conference Tournament at Bear Stadium. Brandon Tierney went 3-for-5 at the plate in his final game in an Islanders uniform.
The Islanders finished the year at 31-27, while the Cowboys advance to a 7 p.m. game tonight against host Central Arkansas.
The top of the lineup paced the Islanders' offense, as the 1-4 hitters combined to go 9-for-19 at the plate with five RBIs. Tierney's three hits were joined by two each from the rest of the trio, while Kyle Danford led the team with his two runs driven in.
The top of the order was also solid for the Cowboys, as the 1-3 hitters went 6-for-10 at the dish, with their eight-hole hitter Connor Lloyd also tallying three hits and scoring two runs. Cole Prejean had a strong outing out of the bullpen for the Cowboys, as he gave up two hits and no runs over the final four innings to pick up his sixth win of the year.
The Islanders were able to get on the board early, as Tierney, Tyler Ware and Danford tallied three consecutive singles with one out to post the first run of the game. A walk to Russell Vaughan juiced the bases before a ground ball rolled to the shortstop for a 6-4-3 double play to end the threat for A&M – Corpus Christi.
The Cowboys had a quick response though, as they were able to pick up three singles to start the bottom half of the frame to tie the game up at one. After an infield fly for the second out, McNeese took its first lead of the game with a single to left by Reed Gordy to plate its second run. However, the bottom of the first ended just like the top, as starter Devin Skapura was able to induce a 6-4-3 inning-ending double play with the Islanders trailing 2-1.
After a perfect frame from Steven O'Bryant in the second, McNeese looked to extend its lead in the bottom of the second. Skapura was able to get the first out of the inning, but a pair of singles and a sac bunt to put runners on second and third spelled the end of his outing. Kaleb Keith then came on in a tight spot, but was able to get a grounder to get out of it and keep the Cowboy lead at one.
The game continued its back and forth action in the third, as for the second time in the contest the Islanders were able to string together three straight hits with Ware driving in the tying RBI. Then with runners on the corners, Danford drove in his second run of the day with chopper out in front of the plate, as Tierney scampered home on the throw to put the Islanders back up 3-2.
Keith was able to set down the Cowboys in the bottom of the third on the backing of some nice defense behind him. Following a leadoff single, Frankie Salas handled a grounder, threw it to second and then got the return throw for a 3-6-3 double play. Then a hot shot down the third base line had Tierney sprawling to his right, as he was able to handle it for the final out of the inning.
The Cowboys found some holes the following inning, though, with two singles through the left side after a strikeout. A sacrifice bunt then brought the tying run of the game in to score, while Cameron Toole was safe at first as well on the fielder's choice. This would end the day for Keith and bring Dalton D'Spain on to pitch, who saw both runners advance on his first pitch on a double steal. A groundout then saw the Cowboys jump back out on top 4-3 after the first four.
The lead didn't last long for McNeese though, as Lee swung at the first pitch he saw for the third time of the game, ripping it down the right field line and turning on the jets for a leadoff triple. Tierney followed with a groundout to short, but it was good enough to bring Lee in and tie the game.
The Cowboys attempted to grab the lead back, drawing a walk and hit by pitch to start the bottom of the fifth, chasing D'Spain from the game. Kevin Landgrebe entered the game and got pinch hitter Matt Williams to foul off three consecutive bunts for the first out. A failed hit and run resulted in the runner being gunned down at third before a fly out brought the fifth to a close with the game still tied at four.
This left the door open for the Islanders to take the lead back in the sixth. Salas started things by drawing a walk to chase O'Bryant from the game, while Zack Gibson singled with Salas in motion to put the first two runners aboard. Josh Garza advanced both runners on a sac bunt, while another RBI groundout, this time by Lee, put A&M – Corpus Christi back up 5-4.
In the bottom of the seventh the tying run got to third on some miscues by Landgrebe, as he hit Jackson Gooch, who then advanced on a balk and a wild pitch. Out one came on a terrific play by Lee, as the left fielder sprinted over and made a sliding catch in the gravel in foul territory. Jacob Dorris then came on and picked up the second out on another foul out, but couldn't prevent the tying run from coming in, as Williams tallied the first extra base hit for the Cowboys with a double to knot the game at five going into the eighth.
McNeese was able to get to Dorris in the eighth though, leading things off with a single before an RBI triple by Andrew Guillotte brought around the go-ahead run. Guillotte then came in to score, as James Cantu singled through the drawn-in infield to give the Cowboys a 7-5 lead.
Prejean then came back out for his fourth inning of work and only allowed a two-out single by Tierney, which broke up a streak of 11 consecutive Islanders set down, before recording the final out to secure the win for the Cowboys to eliminate the Islanders.
It marked the final game in an Islanders uniform for the team's five seniors – Tierney, Vaughan, Cody Stephens, Jacob Hubert and A.J. Longoria. The team posted back-to-back top-three finishes in the league in their final two years for A&M-Corpus Christi.
Be sure to stay up-to-date with the Islanders during the offseason by following the team on Twitter and Instagram (@IslandersBSB) and liking the team on Facebook (Islanders Baseball).