Islanders power way to championship round with pair of home runs

HUNTSVILLE, Texas - The Texas A&M - Corpus Christi softball team used the rarely seen long ball on Saturday morning to advance to the championship round of the 2011 Southland Conference Tournament against Texas State. Seniors Kacie Smith and Brittany Tucker each had a pair of three-run home runs to help their team to an 8-6 win against McNeese State.

The Islanders are now 41-18 on the season while the Cowgirls finished the season at 31-29 with the loss. Jordan Trujillo came on in relief and picked up her third win of the tournament, going 2.2 innings and giving up three runs on five hits while walking two and striking out a pair. She moved to 17-7 with the win in relief.

The Islanders started the scoring with a run in the top of the first to take an early lead. Caley Jeter led the game off with a single and moved to second when Hannah Schwarz grounded out to first base. Jeter then came around to score when Lauren Dodson reached on a fielding error by the first baseman to make it 1-0.

They added to the advantage in the third when Jeter led off the third with a single and advanced to second on perfectly placed Schwarz bunt single. After McNeese struck out two-straight Islanders batters, Smith never let it get that far as she connected on the first pitch she saw for a three-run home run to make it a 4-0 advantage.

McNeese State came back to take the lead after scoring one run in the fourth, two in the fifth and two in the sixth and gained a 5-4 advantage.

That put the Islanders down to their final three outs in the top of the seventh. After the first out, freshman Laura Phillips was called on to pinch hit and came through with a single to put one runner on as Redman came back on in the spot to run for Phillips. After a fly out to centerfield put the team down to its final out, Jeter came through with a single to put runners at first and second.

Texas A&M - Corpus Christi tied it up on a Schwarz single to center to make it a 5-5 game as Jeter advanced to third and Schwarz to second on an error by the centerfielder. That brought Tucker to the plate looking to give her team the lead. She did just that on a 2-0 pitch that she hit to straight-away center field to give the Islanders an 8-5 lead.

"All I was doing was trying to get that extra run across," said Tucker. "The more runs you get the better chance you have to hold them off the next inning.

"Laura (Phillips) started off the rally and it just kept going."

McNeese would threaten in the bottom of the seventh after scoring a run and bringing the tying run to the plate, but Trujillo closed it out for her third victory of the tournament.

The Islanders now advance to the championship round where they will face the Texas State Bobcats. In order for them to win the tournament title, Texas A&M - Corpus Christi must win twice against TXST. The championship game will be broadcast on the Southland Conference Television Network, including My KTOV in Corpus Christi. If a second championship game is necessary, it will be shown to a national audience on Fox College Sports Central.

"That's all you can do, if you lose the first one it's going to be a long haul," said head coach Jake Schumann. "You just play one game at a time and we got back to it and into the championship.

"We extended the day by another game and we're just going to take it one inning at a time and try to do it again."

Live stats and audio will be available by visiting www.GoIslanders.com.