March 28, 2012
San Antonio – They have the best closer in all of baseball, perhaps the best ace and one of the best pitching staffs as a whole.
And now, those St. Mary’s hurlers carry the distinction of pitching for the best team in baseball.
The Rattlers are ranked No. 1 in the country in the latest Collegiate Baseball Newspaper poll, giving them the top billing in a national poll for the first time since winning the NCAA Division II national championship in 2001.
St. Mary’s (25-5) also ranks No. 2 in the nation in the latest National Collegiate Baseball Writers of America rankings, falling a single point out of first place behind North Alabama despite drawing more first-place votes (seven) than any other school.
Winners of six straight, the Rattlers are 54-9 dating back to the middle of last season, a year that saw them host the South Central Regional and set the school’s single-season win percentage mark at 82.5 percent – a clip they’re currently on pace to beat.
And it takes looking no further than the pitcher’s mound to realize the source for much of the success.
Closer Jonathan Perez (Jr., San Antonio) leads the nation in saves with 12, while no pitcher in the country has posted a lower ERA in as many innings pitched as ace Carl O’Neal (Jr., San Antonio), who has a 0.53 ERA over eight starts – all wins.
But don’t think the Rattlers’ bats haven’t had a little something to do with the success, too.
Catcher M.P. Cokinos (Jr., Houston) has smashed a team-high 36 RBIs and five home runs in his first season since transferring from the University of Houston, while leadoff hitter Billy Richard (Jr., Schertz, Texas) has enjoyed a career year with a .383 batting average to go along with four dingers.
Add it all up and the Rattlers have outscored their opponents 192-76, including 72-12 over their current six-game winning streak.
St. Mary’s plays at Tarleton State at 3 p.m. today.