San Antonio – Having hit his pitch count Sunday, St. Mary’s starter Carl O’Neal handed the ball over to star closer Sammy Rivas with one out to go in the Heartland Conference Tournament championship game.
The exchange told plenty about the fourth-ranked Rattlers’ success this season. O’Neal, a first-team All-Heartland Conference selection, was handing the reigns to the league’s Co-Pitcher of the Year.
What the scene didn’t tell? That three more award-winning pitchers still remained at the Rattlers’ disposal in the dugout.
Yes, the Rattlers’ seemingly never-ending supply of pitchers paid dividends over the weekend, as St. Mary’s completed its perfect showing in the conference tournament with an 8-3 victory over St. Edward’s in the title game at V.J. Keefe Field.
“All of our starters are excellent,” said O’Neal, a graduate of Clark High School, who is the Rattlers’ No. 3 hurler. “You can’t beat them.”
St. Mary’s (45-8), which went 3-0 in the tournament and owns a 16-game winning streak, now turns its attention toward the South Central Region Tournament, which the Rattlers hope to host from Thursday-Sunday. Advancing to regionals for the second straight year, St. Mary’s entered the week ranked No. 1 in the region.
RE-WATCH THE RATTLERS’ VICTORY!
Left fielder Derek Moczygemba and right fielder Jason Garcia both homered against the HIlltoppers (27-24), helping the Rattlers cruise after seeing St. Edward’s tie the game at 2-2 in the fourth.
A five-run seventh inning saw the Rattlers explode to a 7-2 advantage, while Garcia’s solo blast made it 8-2 in the eighth.
Moczygemba finished 3 for 4 with one RBI and a run scored, while Garcia drove in two runs and scored twice. First baseman Tyler Migl and catcher Ryan Morrow were named Tournament Co-MVPs.
O’Neal, who threw nine innings of no-hit baseball before yielding one hit in the 10th inning of a no-decision the last time he faced St. Edward’s, improved to 6-3 on the season. He struck out five and walked one in 8 2/3 innings of work.
The showing underscored the point that dominated the conversation throughout the tournament: There’s seemingly no end to St. Mary’s pitching depth.
O’Neal ranks behind aces Matt Holland and Greg Herbst in the rotation, forming a trio that combined to occupy three of the four slots awarded to starting pitchers on the First-Team All-Heartland Conference awards list. Also available are reliever Kyle Bumpas, a second-team selection who is 7-0 on the year, starter Skye Severns (7-0) and Rivas, who owns a .24 ERA.
“It’s great trying to outpitch our No. 1 and No. 2 guys,” O’Neal joked. “We kid around and try to get Pitcher of the Week, and try to outdo what the other guy did.”
O’Neal had his turn Sunday.
All-Heartland Conference Tournament Team:
IF: Tyler Migl, St. Mary’s
IF: Ryan Morrow, St. Mary’s
IF: Austin Wooldridge, Texas-Permian Basin
IF: Taylor Johnson, St. Edward’s
OF: Paul McCoy, St. Edward’s
OF: Derek Moczygemba, St. Mary’s
OF: Billy Richard, St. Mary’s
P: Carl O’Neal, St. Mary’s
P: Landon Patterson, St. Edward’s
At-large: Ryan Giacomini, Texas-Permian Basin