San Antonio – Zach Kucera tossed his first shutout of the season, while Tommy Vrzal threw 6 1/3 strong innings to help St. Mary’s University to a sweep of Heartland Conference leader St. Edward’s University, 9-0, 5-2, in baseball action Thursday afternoon at V.J. Keefe Memorial Stadium.
Trailing SEU by five games in the Heartland standings heading into action Thursday the Rattlers needed people to step up for St. Mary’s to catch the Hilltoppers. They got it. In game one Kucera (Jr., Spring) threw his first shutout of the season, allowing just five hits and one walk, while striking out four in seven innings. He improved to 5-3 with the win. He only got into serious trouble twice, allowing a base hit and hitting two batters to load the bases in the second inning. But he struck out Chris Dinges to end that threat. Then in the seventh inning the Hilltoppers got back-to-back hits with one out. But Kucera bore down and got the last two outs to pick up the win.
The Rattlers offense made Kucera’s performance stand up. Cody Pyle (Sr., Spring Branch) smacked his 10th homerun of the season to give the Rattlers a 1-0 lead in the second, then hit an RBI double the following inning as the Rattlers scored five runs off Hilltopper starter James Belliveau. Ray Camacho (Sr., Converse) had two doubles and brought home three runs in the win.
In game two Vrzal (Sr., San Antonio) nearly didn’t make it out of the first inning. Vrzal hit the first two batters of the game, and then allowed a bunt single to Brian Thomas to load the bases with no outs. Dexter Moreno singled to score one run and Yannick Bergeron brought home the second with a sacrifice fly to right. Vrzal hit one more batter, but struck out two to end the threat.
After that Vrzal settled down and didn’t allow another run the rest of the way. He was pulled with one out in the seventh inning with runners on the corners. Frank Flores (Jr., San Antonio) retired the last two batters for his third save of the season. Vrzal improved to 6-1, allowing two runs on five hits and four walks, while striking out nine.
The Rattlers picked up a run in the first, and then took the lead in the second inning. With one out Danny Cantu (So., Laredo) smacked a triple off the wall in right-center. Michael Pawelek (Sr., San Antonio) and Jason Davila (Sr., Boerne) followed with walks and Ryan Femath (Sr., El Paso) singled to tie the game at 2-2. A wild pitch brought Pawelek home with the go-ahead run.
Two innings later the Rattlers increased their lead. Jason Anderson (Sr., Lancaster, Calif.) was hit by a pitch to lead off and after James Wright came on to pitch, Cantu walked. One out later, Davila singled to center to bring home Anderson. A walk to Michael Brzezinski (So., Helotes) loaded the bases and Camacho walked to increase the Rattler lead to 5-2. That would be more than enough for Vrzal.
With the sweep the Rattlers are now 24-11 overall and 16-6 in Heartland Conference play. St. Edward’s is 29-9, 21-5. The doubleheader sweep of SEU is just the second all season. The teams will complete their four-game series on Friday with a doubleheader, starting at 2 p.m. at V.J. Keefe Memorial Stadium.