Austin – Arlynda Flores and Chelsea Wenske smacked homeruns, and St. Mary’s University held off a late rally by St. Edward’s University for an 8-6 victory in the Heartland Conference Tournament semifinals, held Friday morning at Diane Daniels Field. With the victory, the Rattlers advance to the Heartland Conference Tournament Championship game on Saturday at noon at Diane Daniels Field.

The Rattlers wasted no time in jumping on the Hilltoppers and starting pitcher Paige Sandahl. Katie Nichols (Fr., San Marcos, Texas) walked to lead off and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt. Arlynda Flores (Sr., Uvalde, Texas) picked up the second walk of the inning, and Kelly Baker (Jr., Arlington, Texas) brought both runners home with a double to right, giving St. Mary’s a 2-0 lead. Christine Rodriguez (Fr., San Antonio) kept the rally going with an RBI single to make the score 3-0. That chased Sandahl from the game and brought in Diana Cezeaux on the mound. After retiring the first batter she faced, Cezeaux gave up a two-run homerun to Wenske (Jr., Shiner) to make the score 5-0.

The Hilltoppers scored a single run in the second inning on an RBI single by Lana Jo Hairston to cut the lead to 5-1. That run broke a 21.1 inning scoreless streak by Taryn Munoz (Sr., Bulverde, Texas). Two innings later, the Hilltoppers made it a two-run game when Lana Jo Hairston smacked a two-run homerun.

Flores gave the Rattlers a three-run lead with a solo homerun to left, her seventh long ball of the season. The Hilltoppers rallied again with two runs in the top of the sixth inning. Jenny Varteressian smacked a two-run homerun and Courtney Lavender followed with a bases-loaded walk to cut the Rattler lead to one at 7-6. But Munoz buckled down and returned Stacey Giles on a fly out to end the threat. The Rattlers picked up an insurance run in the bottom of the sixth when Alex Garcia (Fr., San Antonio) doubled to score Wenske. Munoz then retired the Hilltoppers in order in the seventh inning to wrap up the win.

Nichols led the way for the Rattlers, going 3-for-3 with two doubles. Wenske finished 2-for-3 with a homerun, two RBI and two runs scored. Munoz improved to 21-12 with the victory, allowing six runs on six hits and five walks, while striking out four. Sandahl fell to 19-9 with the loss.

With the victory, St. Mary’s improved 33-19 and has won its last five games in a row. St. Edward’s fell to 33-20 with the loss. The Rattlers advance to the Heartland Conference Tournament Championship game, which will take place on Saturday at noon. The Rattlers will await their opponent, which will be determined by the final two games of the day on Friday. Saturday’s championship game will be broadcast live.

Notes: Taryn Munoz had a 21.1 inning scoreless streak snapped in the second inning of the game. St. Mary’s is 29-3 all-time in the Heartland Conference Tournament. The Rattlers have never lost a Heartland Conference Tournament Championship game. St. Mary’s win over St. Edward’s was their first of the season after three losses. Munoz has a career-high 21 wins this season.

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