SAM HOUSTON STATE (23-18, 9-6 SLC) AT TEXAS A&M - CORPUS CHRISTI (7-29, 2-13 SLC)
THE FIRST PITCH
The Texas A&M - Corpus Christi softball team will return home to Chapman Field this weekend after a six-game conference road swing. The Islanders will play host to Sam Houston State in a three-game conference series starting Saturday, April 13, in a doubleheader before wrapping the series on Sunday, April 14. The Islanders and Bearkats will meet for the 25th time in history in the first of two games on Saturday.
Texas A&M - Corpus Christi is coming off a tough outing at Lamar last weekend. The Islanders dropped all three games to the Lady Cardinals in the first series of program history. The Islanders outhit the Lady Cardinals 20-18 in the opening two games before matching a season-high 13 hits in the final game to outhit Lamar 13-10. The Islanders are 3-8 at home this season and will host its third conference series of the season.
Sam Houston State will embark on its fourth conference road series of the season and are currently in a tie for third place with a 9-6 record in conference play.
The Islanders will head into the weekend with a 7-29 record including a 2-13 record in SLC action, while the Bearkats hold a 23-18 record and are 4-5 on the road in conference play.
Head Coach Stephanie Hughes is in her second year with the Islanders and was named the 2013 SLC Preseason All-Conference Coach of the Year by College Sports Madness.
•The Islanders are young with just one senior and 15 on the roster. The squad returns three starters and 11 letterwinners from a team that finished with an 18-23 overall record (11-9 SLC) a year ago.
•Senior Meagan McKinney is powering the Islanders' bats with a .297 batting average. She is second on the team with 30 hits and co-leads the team with 18 RBI. She also has three home runs and five doubles on the year.
•Mickayla Cochran has been consistent as the Islanders' leadoff batter. She is second behind McKinney with a .291 batting average and leads the team with 18 runs and 34 hits.
•Texas A&M - Corpus Christi matched a season-high 13 hits and all nine Islanders batters recorded at least one hit apiece in the final game against Lamar.
• The Islanders tied a season-high six RBI in the first game against Lamar.
•Lyles earned Southland Conference Honorable Mention honors after posting a .545 batting average over the weekend. She tallied 7 RBI, six hits and one grand slam.
•Junior Constance Brandenburg leads the Islanders in the circle with a 4.47 ERA. Her 92.1 innings and 40 strikeouts pitched this season have surpassed her recorded innings pitched and strikeouts in her first two seasons. She recorded 54.1 innings and 31 strikeouts her first two years.
•Saturday's opening game will mark the 25th meeting between the two teams in program history. The Bearkats hold the 7-17 all-time series record.
SCOUTING THE BEARKATS
Sam Houston State heads into Saturday's game with a 23-18 record including a 9-6 record in conference play. The Bearkats are 10-8 on the road this season and 4-5 on the road in conference play. Sam Houston State has won eight of its last nine games, including five straight in conference play. The Bearkats currently sit in a tie for third place in the conference with Lamar and sit behind McNeese State and Northwestern State. The Bearkats have conference victories against Southeastern La. (1), Central Arkansas (2), Lamar (1), Stephen F. Austin (2), and Houston Baptist (3).
Tori Benavidez leads Sam Houston State with a .420 batting average and a team-high 55 hits while Tiffany Castillo is second on the team with a .366 batting average. Shelby Lancaster (9-7) leads the Bearkats with 121 innings pitched, while posting a 3.07 ERA. Meme Quinn (7-4) leads the team with 73 strikeouts in 74.2 innings, while posting a 3.38 ERA. Haley Baros (7-7) has a 3.83 ERA in 75 innings to go along with 46 strikeouts.
IN THE CIRCLE
Pitching coach and seven-year NPF veteran Sarah Pauly has a young group of pitchers this season after losing standout pitchers Greta Cecchetti, Jordan Trujillo and Vianca Pesina. Cecchetti was second in the Southland Conference last season with a 0.58 ERA and second in strikeouts with 82.
Junior Constance Brandenburg (4-11) has been the Islanders go to pitcher in the circle this season with a 4.47 ERA in 92.1 innings. Brandenburg has tallied 40 strikeouts in a team-high 24 appearances (3rd in SLC). The junior recorded a career-high nine strikeouts in a complete game strikeout, while allowing just one walk and four hits over Kansas.
Ashley Elicerio (2-15) holds a 5.36 ERA in a team-high 94.0 innings and 23 appearances. She leads the team with 47 strikeouts. Elicerio also has seen action at the plate and has tallied a .188 batting average at 16 at-bats and has tallied three hits. She clinched her first career victory in the Islanders 7-3 victory over Southern. Elicerio recorded a career-high six strikeouts in seven innings and allowed just two hits. She improved her career-high with seven strikeouts in six innings at McNeese State.
Sophomore Bethany Slick (1-3) rounds out the pitchers with a 5.71 ERA in 34.1 innings and 15 appearances. She picked up her first career victory in the circle against Northern Colorado in her first career start.
Leadoff hitter Mickayla Cochran has been consistent for the Islanders this season. The sophomore is second on the team with a .291 batting average in all 36 starts. She has a team-high 34 hits and has recorded five doubles to go along with three home runs. Cochran also has a team-high 18 runs and has posted 43 putouts in center field. Cochran went 3-for-4 with three hits and two RBI in a 6-4 victory over Northern Colorado in the Miken Classic in Waco, Texas. She opened the CenturyLink Classic going 2-for-3 in back-to-back games against North Texas and Purdue. Cochran went 2-for-4 in the conference opener vs. HBU.
Ashley Elicerio is a 5-7 pitcher and utility player. She played four years at Hendrickson High School and was tabbed Utility Player of the Year three consecutive years. This season, she had a career day with seven strikeouts in six innings in the second game against McNeese State. She followed that performance with six strikeouts against Northwestern State in game one. She picked up her first conference victory of the season at Southeastern La. with her first complete game five-hit shutout.
Natalie Zarzabal, a right-handed outfielder, played at Steele High School in Cibolo, Texas. This season, Zarzabal tallied her first career home run against Northern Colorado in the Islanders 6-4 victory and recorded her second homer in a 6-0 victory at Southeastern La. She posted her third homer in a 9-6 loss at Lamar.
Dani Tefft was a four-year starter at Kempner High School in Sugar Land, Texas. The left-hander led the team with a .434 batting average while helping her team win the 2011 Bi-District Championship and the 2011 District 23-5A Championship. This season, Tefft recorded two hits and two runs in five starts in left field at the Texas Classic. The freshman went 2-for-3 against HBU in game two of the doubleheader. She is second on the team with four sacrifice hits.
Michelle Sorenson has 97 putouts behind home plate this season and has caught a conference-high 15 stolen bases. She posted a .358 batting average while appearing in 43 of 51 games during the 2010-11 season at McLennan CC.
Meagan McKinney is on a five-game hitting streak while J.J. Jackson is on a four-game hitting streak and Hayley Galloway, Cochran and Lindsey Lyles are all on a three-game hitting streak.
Co-captain junior Valerie Perez has been the vocal leader for the team this season along with McKinney. Perez has tallied 22 hits and a team-high six doubles this season in 32 games. She has also recorded 59 putouts at shortstop this season. The Islanders have won seven games when Perez has been in the starting lineup and 0-6 when the junior hasn't started or been in the game.
Following Sunday's game the Islanders will face UTSA in a midweek non-conference doubleheader on April 17 in San Antonio.