Islanders' 9-2 win marks fourth time in last five years the No. 8 seed has won its opening game of tournament
SAN MARCOS, Texas – The Texas A&M-Corpus Christi offense started fast and never looked back, chasing Sam Houston State starting pitcher Caleb Smith after 1.1 innings on the way to a 9-2 win over the top-seeded Bearkats.
The win moved the Islanders to 24-31 on the year, while the Bearkats are now 36-19. Daniel Minor picked up the win, pitching 8.0 innings while giving up two runs, only one earned, on eight hits with one walk and three strikeouts. The win was his 10th of the season, tying the school record set last year by Todd Simko.
The Islanders' win marked the fourth time in the last five years the No. 8 seed has upset the No. 1 seed in the opening game of the tournament. The Islanders beat UTSA in 2008 and Nicholls State upset Texas State each of the last two years.
The top of the first inning set the tone for the game, with the No. 8 seed Islanders scoring four runs on five hits to take the early lead. On the day, Drew Vest, Brad Porras and Jordan Lee each had two hits, while Porras and Eric Weiss had one home run apiece. Weiss, Jonathan Gonzales and Weston Montgomery drove in two runs each, while Weiss, Gonzales, Montgomery, Jeramie Marek, Santiago Ruiz, Dan Sciantarelli and Stafford Brantley had one each in the game.
Things started quickly for the Islanders, with Eric leading the game off with a solo home run down the left field line to make it a 1-0lead. Vest followed with a single, but was eliminated on the bases when Gonzales hit into a fielder's choice. Following the out, Porras doubled down the right field line, with Gonzales moving to third on the play.
Montgomery came up with a big two-run single to score Gonzales and Porras for a 3-0 lead. The final run of the inning came when Lee followed with a run-scoring triple to right center that scored Montgomery to make it 4-0 after the top of the first inning.
In the bottom half of the inning, Sam Houston picked up one run on two hits to cut the deficit to 4-1.
A&M-Corpus Christi added three more runs in the top of the sixth to extend the lead. Lee led off with a walk, moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Marek and went to third on a Ruiz groundout. A pitch hit Sciantarelli to put runners on first and third, and Weiss followed by reaching on an error that allowed Lee to score from third.
A Vest walk loaded the bases for Gonzales, and the Islanders designated hitter came through with two RBI on a single up the middle to make it a 7-1 game.
In the bottom of the sixth, Sam Houston got a run back, scoring it unearned after a throwing error allowed the runner to move up a base, and then come home on a fielder's choice.
Porras led off the top of the ninth inning with his third home run of the year, a monster shot into the Bobcats softball field over the left field wall. All three of Porras' homers this season have come against Sam Houston. The solo shot made it an 8-2 lead over the Bearkats.
After the leadoff homer, singles by Lee and Marek put runners on first and second, while a groundout moved the runners up a base. Brantley followed with a single through the left side to score Lee for a 9-2 lead, while Marek was thrown out at the plate to end the inning.
In the bottom of the ninth, Tanner Green came on to close it out, getting a 1-2-3 inning to finish off the game against the Bearkats for a 9-2 victory.
A&M-Corpus Christi will face UT Arlington Thursday at 4 p.m., while Sam Houston State plays an elimination game against McNeese State Thursday at 9 a.m.
Texas A&M Corpus Christi Starting Pitcher Daniel Minor
"Our offense came in and put a four spot in the first inning. It took a lot of pressure off, so I could just go out there and throw strikes. As the eight seed beating the No. 1 seed, we probably surprised a lot of people, but we didn't surprise ourselves. We're a good team. We played them well earlier in the year. We won the first game, and they got us the next two. We came out and were confident in our ability, swung the bat and pitched a good game, and got the win."
On the Islanders' run support
"It took a tremendous amount of pressure off. It let me focus on throwing strikes. I didn't have to worry too much about throwing perfect pitches. I just let my defense work, and they made tons of plays today, so I'd like to thank them for that."
On availability on Saturday should Islanders advance
"I'll be back in time hopefully for Saturday. I'm going to work the next few days on getting my arm ready to pitch Saturday."
Texas A&M Corpus Christi's Head Coach
"Eric Weiss comes out there on an 0-2 count and hits it out of the park, and I felt the exhale in the dugout like, 'hey this might be our day.' I thought it was a whole team effort offensively. As soon as the game was over, you were looking for someone to interview, and I told you to just grab somebody. Everybody did something good today. I'm really proud of our offense against a team that could really pitch."
"Down the stretch, we've been winning some games and some series. It's been a little bit of everybody. Those guys in the middle did a great job today. Shawn Gonzales with a huge two-strike, two-RBI hit, and Weston Montgomery in the first inning with a two-strike, two-RBI hit. When Daniel Minor is on the mound, I don't think we ever feel like we're overmatched. Whether it's the best team in the Southland, Texas, Rice, or whoever, we feel like we always have a chance with Daniel Minor on the mound. I was really proud with how he's played.
On the decision to bring in the closer for the ninth instead of leaving Minor on the mound
"Minor was begging me to go back out for the ninth, and my closer (a senior), came up to me and said 'Coach, if we win this thing, Minor is throwing again. Don't let him go back out there.' It's funny these guys don't get enough credit. They see the whole picture. It was a fun run for us last year. That's why I like this team; they've been here before, so it's going to be a really fun tournament."
Sam Houston State Head Coach
"Minor has been very consistent all year. I think he's the best pitcher in the league and he showed that today. He really knows how to pitch and he showed that today. You have a kid who's one of the best arms in the league, and they played really well behind him. Whether they're an 8 seed, a fifth seed, or a one seed, you've got to go perform. We'll be fine. That was a real gut check. I hope our guys come out fired up tomorrow morning. We got behind early today and just never could overcome it."
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