San Antonio – The St. Mary’s baseball team has shown its grit throughout the season, ranking as high as No. 1 in the nation and winning the Heartland Conference regular season championship.
And now, they’re just as well represented in the conference awards, which were announced this week.
The No. 1-ranked team in the league pulled away with a total of 14 awards, with four Rattlers selected All-Conference First Team and five selected All-Conference Second Team, including winning the coveted Pitcher of the Year award and taking home three Golden Glove players and the Coach of the Year honor.
Rightfully claiming the Pitcher of the Year award was Rattlers ace Carl O’Neal (Jr., San Antonio). O’Neal spent much of the season honing an under a 1.00 ERA and ended the season at 1.91 with an undefeated record of 11-0. For the second year running, O’Neal was also selected All-Conference First Team along with fellow star pitcher Rene Solis (So., San Antonio), who in his first year as a starting pitcher in the No. 2 spot led the conference in strikeouts with 93 with an 11-2 record that earned him a First Team selection in his first try.
Two of the Rattlers’ main sluggers and fielders, M.P. Cokinos (Jr., Houston) and Billy Richard (Jr., Schertz, Texas) also naturally made All-Conference First Team. As a newcomer, Cokinos’ first season as a Rattler was a powerful one as he led the league in RBIs with 47 and reigned as St. Mary’s new starting catcher with only one error to his name, also earning him the catcher’s Golden Glove. Two other Golden Gloves were worn by the Rattlers, as Tyler Migl (Sr., San Antonio), who committed one error all season, receiving the first basemen’s Golden Glove. Esteban Raygoza (Sr., San Antonio) also earned the shortstop’s Golden Glove.
While a double-digit award collection was beyond commendable, St. Mary’s – as the often-ranked No. 1 team in the nation – might have thought Player of the Year was coming their way, too.
At the top from the start, literally, leadoff man Richard emerged as this season’s shining Rattler for St. Mary’s, as well as in the league. Richard swung away ahead of the pack to earn three Heartland Conference Hitter of the Week awards, more than any other hitter in the league, but lost out on Player of the Year to St. Edward’s star first baseman, Adam Shank.
Richard smacked 67 hits to lead the conference along with St. Edward’s three-hole hitter, Shank. As a leadoff hitter in which nearly a quarter of his at-bats came with no runners, Richard still brought in 31 RBIs, an uncharacteristically high number for the leadoff man, and just five behind Shank. Richard was also the second-leading home-run hitter in conference with eight, and led the conference in runs scored with 56.
Their nearly identical statistics left Heartland voters in a no-win situation – and in the end in was Richard who didn’t win the conference’s top hitting honor.
St. Mary’s, the conference’s unquestioned top team, rounded out at four players on the First Team, while the No. 2 seed and No. 24 nationally ranked St. Edward’s had six players selected.
Representing All-Conference Second Team was No. 3 pitcher Skye Severns (Sr., Claremont, Calif.), who didn’t make the First Team despite having an undefeated record of 7-0 and holding the No. 3 lead in conference for strikeouts behind Solis and O’Neal. Closer Jonathan Perez (RS-Jr., San Antonio) also represented the Rattler pitching staff as the preferred closer for the Second Team after posting a Rattler-record 15 saves this season. The league’s leader in steals at 17, Josh McElroy (Sr., Boerne, Texas) nabbed a Second Team selection along with newcomer Brandon Bates (Jr., Helotes, Texas), who slammed as the Rattler’s new designated hitter and was the No. 3-leading hitter in the conference. Stepping up strong and hard this year as the Rattlers’ new second basemen, Mario Maldonado (Fr., Laredo, Texas) definitely earned his stripes and was rewarded with a Second Team utility selection.
Fittingly, the Rattlers’ stellar and star-studded season was matched by head coach Charlie Migl earning the Heartland Conference Coach of the Year honor. The selection is Migl’s sixth Heartland Conference coach of the year award and 15th overall.
Although the Player of the Year award might leave Richard with a chip on his shoulder entering the Heartland Tournament, St. Mary’s 14 awards are nothing to sneeze at in what has been a season that has garnered the Rattlers with plenty of recognition.