CORPUS CHRISTI – The Texas A&M – Corpus Christi baseball team opens its 2014 season with a four-game series against South Texas rival Texas-Pan American this weekend with game one set for 7 p.m. in Edinburg, Texas.
This will be the first of 16 games away from Chapman Field to open up the season. However, four of those games will take place in Corpus Christi as part of the Kleberg College Classic at Whataburger Field. Other stops along the road trip include some baseball powerhouses in the form of Texas, Baylor and Rice.
The Islanders are coming off a season in which they earned a 33-24 record, going 17-10 in Southland Conference play to finish second in the league — the highest by any A&M – Corpus Christi team.
In head coach Scott Malone's seventh year the team will look to build on this success from last year, as it returns quite a bit of firepower from the 2013 team, especially on the mound. Trevor Belicek will be the ace of the staff this season, as he was tabbed by Collegiate Baseball Newspaper as the projected Southland Pitcher of the Year. Belicek also garnered Preseason First-Team All-Conference honors after the lefty led the team with nine wins to only two losses and a 3.12 ERA a year ago.
Joining him on the bump will be closer Jacob Dorris, who comes off a season in which he set the school record with 13 saves, five more than any other Islander in a single season, to go along with a 2.36 ERA. Dorris has earned preseason attention as well, as he was named to the 2014 NCBWA Stopper of the Year Watch List to go along with a spot on the Southland Preseason Second Team All-Conference.
Cody Stephens is the top returner in many offensive categories for the Islanders, including batting average (.313), RBIs (28), home runs (two), runs scored (48), hits (70), triples (two), total bases (84) and stolen bases (19). He also had 20 multi-hit games a year ago. The Concord, Calif., native also joined Belicek on the preseason all-conference first-team.
The Islanders will also expect newcomers Tyler Ware, Zack Gibson and Frankie Salas to make an impact on the lineup after the departure of several key offensive cogs in the lineup from a year ago. Ware has already received some recognition, as he was slotted as the ninth best 2014 prospect in the Southland by Perfect Game.
Despite its second-place finish a year ago, A&M – Corpus Christi was predicted to finish fifth by the Southland's coaches and fourth by the SIDs.
In the opposing dugout UTPA comes into the series after a 28-30 season a year ago. However, the Broncs were extremely tough at home a year ago, posting a 17-6 record when playing in Edinburg.
Returning to the bump and also making the start against the Islanders on Friday will be Sam Street, who doubled any other win total on the team with 10, including eight complete games and three shutouts. On the season, he compiled a 2.73 ERA while eclipsing the century mark with 104 strikeouts in 115.1 innings pitched.
The Islanders' pitching will have a host of offensive threats for UTPA that it will have to contain, as the Broncs return their leading hitter, Shane Ammon, who hit .353 with a .445 on-base percentage, as well as their top home run hitter in the form of Alberto Morales who belted a league-high eight round-trippers a year ago.
Going up against Street in game one of the series with UTPA will be junior Matt Danton, who had a solid sophomore campaign with a five wins in 21 appearances to go along with 45 Ks and a 4.20 ERA.
Saturday's games will see Panola Junior College transfer Gavin Williamson get the start for the Islanders against junior Blake English in game one with first pitch scheduled for 1 p.m., while the second game of the doubleheader will pit Tyler Schnuriger against the Broncs' Matt Harrell.
For the noon finale on Sunday the Islanders will wait to name a starter until after Saturday's game, while UTPA is scheduled to throw Matt Daniels in that game. All seven starters who are slotted so far are righties.
The Islanders will get just one day off before they travel up to Austin to take on Texas on Tuesday at 6 p.m. The game will be televised nationally on Longhorn Network.
To keep up with the team this weekend, as well as updates throughout the season be sure to follow the team on Twitter and Instagram (@IslandersBSB) and Facebook (Islanders Baseball).