San Antonio – With seven of last year’s nine starting fielders back, expectations are understandably high for the St. Mary’s University baseball team this season.
The first sign of such expectations came this week.
St. Mary’s has been picked the team to beat in the Heartland Conference, voted No. 1 in the league’s preseason poll that was voted on by coaches and sports information directors.
The Rattlers, who went 40-19 and won the Heartland Conference Championship in 2010, received eight of 11 first-place votes.
St. Mary’s advanced to the NCAA South Central Region Tournament last year, eventually falling 9-8 in a classic, 13-inning tilt with Abilene Christian. They won last year’s conference title with a 35-13 mark in league competition.
The Rattlers return a vast majority of the players that led St. Mary’s deep into the postseason a year ago.
Among the returning players is Ryan Morrow, a senior catcher from Bulverde, Texas. The Smithson Valley High School graduate, who was drafted by the Atlanta Braves in the 44th round of last year’s Major League Baseball First Year Player Draft, smashed 14 home runs and drove in 65 runs a year ago. Morrow is one of eight seniors on the team.
Also back is Josh McElroy, a junior infielder/outfielder from Helotes, Texas, who was one of nine Rattlers to make last year’s All-Heartland Conference team. McElroy batted .375 and drove in 51 runs last season.
First baseman/third baseman Greg Herbst (Sr., San Antonio) and second baseman Weston Baros (Sr., San Antonio), who was selected to the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA)/ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District team, also return.
On the mound, Matt Holland (Sr., Shreveport, La.) returns after going 11-3 with a 4.28 ERA and 78 strikeouts last season.
In all, the Rattlers return 51 of the 64 home runs they hit a year ago, to go along with bringing back nearly 80 percent of the runs they drove in.
St. Mary’s opens the season when it hosts Abilene Christian University at 4 p.m. on Feb. 1.