San Antonio – St. Mary’s University will head south to Laredo this Friday and Saturday for a three-game series that could clinch the Rattlers first Heartland Conference Championship in baseball since the 2002 season.

The Rattlers (35-15 overall, 31-12 Heartland Conference) entered last weekend’s three-game series against Lincoln University trailing first-place Texas-Permian Basin by 1 ½ games in the Heartland Conference standings. But the Rattlers three-game sweep of the Blue Tigers, combined with the University of the Incarnate Word winning three of four games against UTPB, moved the Rattlers into first place. St. Mary’s has a one-game lead over UIW (30-13 HC) and a 1 ½ game lead over UTPB (32-14 HC).

This weekend the 22nd-ranked Rattlers will face Texas A&M-International University (20-33 overall, 18-28 Heartland Conference) on Friday, starting at noon doubleheader. They will wrap up the series on Saturday with a single game at noon. Meanwhile, UIW will host St. Edward’s University at Sullivan Field on Friday and Saturday with a 1 p.m. doubleheader on Friday and a single game Saturday, also at 1 p.m. UTPB will host fifth place Newman University (26-24 overall, 22-22 Heartland Conference) in a three-game series at Roden Field. Friday’s doubleheader will start at 1 p.m., while the final game of the series on Saturday will start at noon.

The scenarios are simple for the Rattlers to clinch the Heartland Conference Championship. If the Rattlers win all three games they will win the title, regardless of how UTPB and UIW fare. If the Rattlers win two of three UTPB cannot catch the Rattlers, however UIW, which won four of seven games against the Rattlers could tie for the title by sweeping St. Edward’s. UIW would win any tiebreaker against St. Mary’s because they won the season series.

The winner of the Heartland Conference will receive an automatic bid to next week’s NCAA Division II South Central Region Tournament, which will be held at a site to be determined. Abilene Christian University and Angelo State University meet Tuesday to earn the Lone Star Conference’s automatic bid, while Emporia State University is the top seed in the Mid-American Intercollegiate Athletic Association Tournament, which will be played this weekend in Kansas City, Kan.

The Rattlers are led on the pitching mound by Scott Shimek (Sr., Shiner), who was named Heartland Conference Pitcher of the Year and was an honorable mention All-American for the 2008 season. This year he is 10-2 with a 2.39 ERA, 10 complete games and two shutouts. Opposing batters are hitting just .225 against him.

At the plate Michael Brzezinski (Sr., Helotes) leads the way with a .354 average, 15 doubles, six triples, six homeruns, 44 RBI and 53 runs scored.  Brzezinski is one of the Rattlers all-time great hitters, with a .377 average, 50 doubles, 16 triples, 21 homeruns, 174 RBI and 227 runs scored in his four years with the Rattlers. He has played in 197 games, making 194 starts. He has been named All-Heartland Conference each of his three years with St. Mary’s and has been named All-Region twice.

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