The Lady Rattlers Softball team (49-10), ranked 8th in the nation and first in the South Central Region, has won the 2002 Heartland Conference crown and dominated the 2002 All-Heartland Conference team.
Competing in the conference tournament at Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Missouri, the Lady Rattlers were the only team undefeated after the first day of play on April 26. St. Mary’s was scheduled to take on winner of the losers’ bracket for the conference championship on Saturday, but incliment weather forced the postponement of the last day of the tournament to April 27. Then that day, when the weather showed no sign of improvement, the rest of the tournament was cancelled and the Lady Rattlers were declared the 2002 HC champs.
Several Lady Rattlers joined Kling, Garcia and Fields in conference honors. Junior pitcher Amanda Bayless, senior shortstop Natalie Hill, senior second baseman Jessica Jimenez, senior outfielder Tanya Medina and sophomore outfielder Pam Salinas joined them on the All-Conference team.
The Lady Rattlers collected their share of conference regular-season honors. Kling was been named Heartland Conference Pitcher of the Week, three times, including the final week of the seson when she also received Hitter of the Week honors. Bayless was named Pitcher of the Week for the last week of March and Medina was twice named Hitter of the Week. Sophomore infielder Elizabeth Hunt and Garcia were also recognized for their hitting during the course of the season.
St. Mary’s 2002 post-season run is a continuation of the success of the 2001 campaign which saw the Lady Rattlers advance to their first-ever NCAA national tournament and finish ranked 20th in the final USA Today/NFCA Division II national poll.
The Rattlers, under the direction of fifth-year head coach Donna Fields and graduate assistant coach Jessica Peoples, are lead by seniors Tanya Medina, Natalie Hill, Ashley Boedeker and Jessica Jimenez. Medina, Hill and Jimenez were 2001 All-Heartland Conference selectees. The Rattlers look to Hill, last season’s top hitter, to again spark the Rattler batters. There will be several new faces on the mound for the Rattlers, as sophomore Jennifer Survant is the only returning pitcher. Junior Amanda Bayless, sophomore Kym Kling and freshman Anglea Hammack join Survant in the rotation.
Last spring, the Rattlers hosted and swept the Heartland Conference Tournament and headed to Pueblo, Colorado for the South Central Regional of the 2001 D-II national tourney. In Pueblo, the #4-seeded Lady Rattlers upset the #1 University of Southern Colorado Thunderwolves and the #2 Mesa State University Mavericks but fell twice to the #3 Eastern New Mexico University Zias, 8-1 in the second round and 4-0 in the regional championship. (The Zias, coached by St. Mary’s Exes Kathleen (’94) and James (’93) Rodriguez, went on to finish fifth in the championship round.) Rattler seniors Liz Card and Kristy Marley and juniors Natalie Hill and Tanya Medina were named to the 2001 South Central Regional All-Tournament Team.