CORPUS CHRISTI, Tex. -- Cory Ege could have picked few venues better for his first career home run than Whataburger Field.
It came against an area rival and pushed the contest in favor of Ege's side. Add that it was hit to an area of the ballpark that professionals seldom clear, and it makes Ege's shot Tuesday night for Texas A&M-Corpus Christi all the more memorable.
Ege, a junior not noted for power, drove a three-run shot onto the berm beyond the right-center field wall in the second inning. Ege's tiebreaking home run and a brutal third inning for Texas A&M-Kingsville pitchers propelled the Division I Islanders past the Division II Javelinas 11-6 in front of 779 fans.
The game was tied 1-all when Ege stepped to the plate with two on and two out in the second. Ege drilled a 2-1 pitch to the opposite field, hitting the right-center berm for his team's first lead.
Ege had been hitting .174 -- with one extra-base hit, a double -- entering the game, the first meeting between the area schools. But that didn't dissuade A&M-Corpus Christi coach Scott Malone from his belief that better days were ahead for Ege.
"I've honestly been telling everybody for the past five days I've got the best dollar-78 hitter going right now," Malone said. "I think he's one of the five best shortstops in the state. I don't say things like that often. He has a load of talent. Great swing."
It was a remarkable burst of power for Ege, who played last season at Northern Iowa. But the university disbanded its baseball program after the year, so Ege was permitted to transfer without sitting out a season.
He showed little power at UNI. As a full-time starter last season, his only two extra-base hits were doubles. As a freshman, Ege had six doubles and a triple, but no home runs.
Ege followed with a two-run single the following inning, as the Islanders broke open the game.
"Good time to get out against a team that's not too far away and get some reps after a rough weekend," said, Ege who finished with 5 RBI. "It's a tribute to the coaches. I've been working so hard on my swing since I stepped on campus. Hit some balls hard this year, but they haven't fallen."
Ege's pop helped his team to the lead. But A&M-Kingsville pitchers provided a cushion with a rough six-run third inning.
A&M-Corpus Christi (5-2) had only two hits and benefitted from only one error in the inning. But Javelinas pitchers combined for four walks -- including one with the bases loaded -- a hit batsman and three wild pitches in the inning.
That turned a 4-1 Islanders lead into a 10-1 deficit for A&M-Kingsville (9-8).
"At that point in time, you're not worried about winning the ballgame, you're wondering how your team's going to respond," Javelinas coach Jason Gonzales said. "They battled, kept putting up runs and our relief pitching came in and gave us some zeros. We actually made it a respectable game."
The Islanders hit an offensive lull, with A&M-Kingsville pitchers setting down eight in a row at one point.
"We haven't been in this position much in three years, where we get up on somebody early like that," Malone said. "We have to learn to finish. We had seven hits after three innings. I thought it would be a great night for us. It was just a good night."
At the same time, the Javelinas were able to chip away at the lead, paring it to 10-6 in the seventh with help from a Travis Earles solo home run. But it was not enough to take down an area rival.
"I'm proud of the guys," Gonzales said. "We'll take some positives with us."
Ege is a former standout Cherokee Washington High School athlete who was a standout on Cherokee's State Baseball championship team a few years ago.
A&M-K 100 120 200--6 9 4
A&M-CC 136 000 10x--11 9 2
W: Damon (2-0). L: Zimmerle (1-1). 2B: A&M-K: Villafuerte. A&M-CC: Montgomery. HR: A&M-K: Earles (4). A&M-CC: Ege (1).