San Antonio – The St. Mary’s baseball team finds itself in a familiar position this preseason: atop the Heartland Conference.

The Rattlers, who rolled through the league with a 27-3 record last season, has been selected as the Heartland’s preseason favorite, the league announced this week.

St. Mary’s received all 14 first-place votes in a poll of the conference’s head coaches and sports information directors, placing them as the clear-cut favorite heading into the 2012 season.

The Rattlers open up the season on Fri., Feb. 3, when they play Newman at 3 p.m. at Wolff Stadium, their temporary home-away-from-home with V.J. Keefe Field out of commission due to the ongoing renovations for the school’s new Outdoor Sports Complex.

St. Mary’s enjoyed an unforgettable season in 2011, going 47-10 to earn the best single-season winning percentage (.825) in school history. Having won both the Heartland regular season and tournament championships, the Rattlers hosted the NCAA Division II South Central tournament as the third-ranked team in the nation.

After downing rival Incarnate Word in the regional opener, St. Mary’s fell in back-to-back games to Southeastern Oklahoma State and Central Missouri to be eliminated from contention for the regional crown.

St. Mary’s remains in the national spotlight this season, ranking No. 4 in the nation in College Baseball Lineup’s preseason poll.

Though the Rattlers’ pitching staff took a hit this offseason because of graduating several top players, St. Mary’s returns veteran arms Carl O’Neal (Jr., San Antonio) and Skye Severns (Sr., Claremont, Calif.), in addition to bringing back the Heartland Conference Player of the Year, first baseman Tyler Migl (Sr., San Antonio).

A primetime recruiting class also vamped up the Rattlers’ bats, bringing in catcher M.P. Cokinos (Jr., Houston), designated hitter Brandon Bates (Jr., Boerne, Texas) and third baseman Ivan Sigala (Jr., El Paso, Texas), among others. Cokinos, a transfer from the University of Houston, was named to the Conference USA All-Freshman Team two years ago.

In addition, iconic coach Charlie Migl returns for his 26th year after winning his 900th career game a year ago.

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