Late Power Propels UTPA Past Islanders

EDINBURG, Texas – The Texas A&M – Corpus Christi baseball team dropped its season opener on Friday night, falling 3-2 to Texas-Pan American at Edinburg Baseball Stadium.

It was a power surge in the bottom of the seventh that led the Broncs past the Islanders, as Alberto Morales sent one off the very top of the left field wall for a leadoff double, followed by a shot that did clear the fence for Bryan Ramirez, putting UTPA up 2-1.

Because of this, starter Matt Danton came away with loss despite going six plus innings, surrendering just four hits and two earned runs while punching out seven with one walk.

On the other side of things, Sam Street picked up his first win after hitting double digits in the win column a year ago with 10. The early run in the second was the only he surrendered in his seven innings on six hits and four strikeouts. 

Brandon Tierney collected both runs batted in for the Islanders, while Cody Stephens had a huge offensive game, going 3-for-4 with two doubles after collecting just four two baggers all of last year.

His first came in the first at bat of the season, as he handled a 0-2 pitch by ripping it down the left field line for a leadoff double.

However, Evan Mason came up with a huge play in center for the Broncs, as he sprawled out to make a diving catch to keep Stephens stuck on second. A fielder's choice and a strikeout then squelched the Islanders' hopes of putting up an early run.

After a scoreless bottom half of the first, the Islanders put the pressure on once again, as Tyler Ware sent one over the head of the left fielder and hustled around the bases to slide into third with his first career knock. The next batter, Tierney, chopped a slow grounder to short, which allowed Ware to come into to score to give A&M – Corpus Christi an early 1-0 lead.

For the third consecutive inning the Islanders put on their leadoff hitter, as Russell Vaughan was plunked in the nine-hole to flip the lineup. After Stephens laid down a perfectly executed bunt up the third-base line to put runners on first and second, Vaughan froze on a short hop to short, which led to a rare 6-4-5 double play.

This is when Danford locked in on the mound, setting down 12 of the next 13 UTPA batters, including five punchouts.

However, Street went pitch-for-pitch with the big righty not allowing more than that single run despite being in a jam in the fourth with runners on the corners and one out, as well as allowing the leadoff runner on in four of the first five innings. This kept the Islanders at bay to lock the score at 1-0 heading into the seventh-inning stretch.

That was when the offensive explosion happened for the Broncs, as the double and homerun to left chased Danton and put the Broncs on top for the first time in the game at 2-1.

Kaleb Keith had a solid effort out of the bullpen, setting down all three batters to get out of the seventh.

A leadoff walk came back to haunt him in the bottom of the eighth though. With two outs and the runner advancing to second on bunt, a grounder took a bad hop and squirted under the glove of Zack Gibson and the runner came around to score to give the Broncs a huge insurance run.

This run was the difference in the game, as the Islanders mounted a rally in the top of the ninth, as Tierney collected his second RBI via a fielder's choice, which put the tying run on second with two outs. Frankie Salas sent one up into the clear night sky before the shortstop settled under it to secure the UTPA victory.

Last season, the Islanders were able to bounce back to win the next three after dropping the first game to UTPA, so A&M – Corpus Christi will look to do that again, starting with a doubleheader on Saturday.

First pitch for game one is set for 1 p.m. at Edinburg Baseball Stadium with Gavin Williamson set to get his first start in an Islander uniform against the Broncs' Blake English. Game two will follow immediately after the first with the schedule starters being Tyler Schnuriger for the Islanders against Matt Harrell.