With a 6-3 victory over St. Edward’s on Saturday, April 25, St. Mary’s won their third Heartland Conference Championship. The Rattlers have won all three Heartland softball titles. St. Mary’s (45-10), currently ranked fourth in the national and first in the region, now await a bid to the NCAA Division II national tournament and an opportunity to defend their 2002 D-II national championship.

Heartland Conference Tournament
April 25 & 26, 2003
University of the Incarnate Word

Friday, April 25:
Game 1 – #1 St. Mary’s 9, #4 Oklahoma Panhandle State 1
Game 2 – #2 St. Edward’s 5, #3 Incarnate Word 1
Game 3 – #4 Oklahoma Panhandle State 3, #3 Incarnate Word 1
Game 4 – #1 St. Mary’s 6, #2 St. Edward’s 4
Saturday, April 26:
Game 5 – 1:00 p.m. – #2 St. Edward’s 3, #4 Oklahoma Panhandle State 2
Game 6 – 3:30 p.m. – #1 St. Mary’s 6, #2 St. Edward’s 3 (Championship)

Heartland Conference honors were announded following the championship game. Rattler All-American pitcher/designated player Kym Kling was named conference player of the year, shortstop Tiffani Craft was named freshman of the year and St. Mary’s coach Donna Fields was named coach of the year. This is the second consecutive year a Rattler was selected as conference player of the year, third baseman Roni Garcia was selected last year. Kling and Fields also received the same honors in 2002. In all six Rattlers were selected for the 2003 All-Conference team: Kling, senior pitcher Amanda Bayless, junior first baseman Jennifer Survant, Garcia, Craft, sophomore outfielder Kristin Simmons and junior outfielder Pam Salinas.

Next up for St. Mary’s is news of the selections and seedings for the 2003 D-II Softball National Tournament. Six teams from each of the division’s eight regions are selected for the tournament, which opens with regional play May 8-11 and concludes with the National Championships, May 15-19 at Wallace Sports Complex in Salem, Oregon. St. Mary’s competed in the last two national tournaments. The Rattlers fell in the 2001 South Central regional finals then hosted – and won – the 2002 South Central regional en route to the 2002 national crown.

The St. Mary’s softball team has won 18 conference championships over the past 24 seasons and two national championships. The Rattlers won eight straight Big State Conference titles (1980 to 1987) and seven Heart of Texas Conference titles (1988-91, 1993, 1994, 1998) in addition to their three Heartland Conference crowns. From 1982 to 1994 the Rattlers went to 12 NAIA national tournaments, missing only the 1984 tourney, and won the 1986 NAIA crown.

The Rattlers are led on the mound by 2002 All American Kym Kling. Kling, a junior pitcher from San Antonio, has a 27-2 record. Kling pitched two no-hitters this season, shutting out Delta State on March 1 and Angelo State on April 15. Senior starter Amanda Bayless (17-6) and sophomore reliever Angela Hammock (1-1) combined for a no-hitter against St. Edward’s on April 19. Kling, with 17 complete games in 30 starts, has a 1.12 ERA while conceeding a .201 batting average. Bayless, with 13 complete games in 20 starts, has a 1.69 ERA but has a lower opponents’ batting average of .179. Kling and Bayless have the most victories and the lowest ERA in the conference. Bayless and Kling, in that order, have the lowest opponents batting average and are the run-away conference leaders in overall strikeouts and batters struckout looking.

Kling also leads St. Mary’s at the plate, hitting for a .405 average, 90 points above the team average. She leads the team in doubles (21), RBIs (48), total bases (110), slugging percentage (.675) and on-base percentage (.508) She also has drawn the most walks (29) and been hit by the most pitches (5) while having the fewest strike-outs of the day-to-day players (5). Tiffani Craft, a freshman shortstop from Alvin, leads the Rattlers in hits with 69 – three more than Kling – while also leading in at bats (179) and stolen bases (37 of 39 attempts). Kling and Craft lead the team with 45 runs each. Sophomore Roni Garcia, a third baseman from San Antonio, leads the team with 10 homeruns while junior outfielder Pam Salinas and sophomore outfielder Terrie Moreno have two triples each. Kling, Craft, Survant and Garcia have the best batting averages in the conference as the Rattlers dominate the hitting, pitching and batting statistics for the conference.

Just under one-third of the Rattlers’ wins this season have been shutout victories. Eight of their wins have come via the eight-run rule – including seven of their last 13 games. St. Mary’s outscored its opponents 93-27 during those last 13 games.

As of the most recent national statistics report, issued on April 20, Kling’s then-25 victories were second-best in the division. At the plate Kling was ranked 18th in doubles per game and on the mound was ranked 29th in earned run average. Rattler strikeout leader Bayless was ranked 14th in strikeout per seven innings, averaging 8.9 per game at the time. Craft’s 0.7 stolen bases per game ranks her 27th. The Rattler’s then record of 42-10 was 14th overall.

Following the final week of the regular season Kling was named the Louisville Slugger/National Fastpitch Coaches Association national player of the week and became the first player to be named the Heartland Conference pitcher of the week and hitter of the week for the same week. During the eight weeks that conference honors were awarded Kling was twice selected as top pitcher and twice selected as top batter. Bayless was also honored as top pitcher twice and Kristin Simmons, Salinas and Craft were selected as top batters. Overall the Rattlers swept the weekly honors in four of the eight weeks.

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