May 21, 2012
WARRENSBURG, Mo. – Eleven years ago, St. Mary’s head baseball coach Charlie Migl won a national championship with his son, Tyler, in the stands.
Now, the Rattlers’ iconic coach is on his way back to the NCAA Division II National Championship series with his son playing a front-and-center role on the field.
Scoring four runs in the eighth inning to erase a late deficit, the No. 2 seeded Rattlers prevailed in an epic, back-and-forth clash with top-seeded Central Missouri on Sunday, pulling away 12-9 after losing a 6-1 lead to capture the South Central Regional crown at Crane Stadium.
An emotional Charlie Migl addressed his team afterward, breaking down when addressing the emotional significance of the title.
“Back in ’01 when we won the national championship, it was real special,” he later said, his voice still cracking. “Tyler was small and I thought, ‘You know, if he could ever play for me and go back to the World Series as a player, it’d be special.”
He then pumped his fist, adding: “We’re going.”
Trailing 9-8 in the eighth, catcher M.P. Cokinos (Jr., Houston) launched a solo blast over the left-field wall to lead off the inning, and second baseman Mario Maldonado (Fr., Laredo, Texas) later smacked a go-ahead, two-RBI single with two outs. Centerfielder Billy Richard (Jr., Schertz, Texas) drove in an insurance run before the inning ended, sending the Rattlers (48-9) to Cary, N.C., for next week’s championship tournament.
The Rattlers’ win came on the heels of a 9-5 loss earlier in the day to Central Missouri that saw the Mules break a 5-5 deadlock with four runs over the final three innings.
Undeterred, it was St. Mary’s who came back the second time around.
Cokinos was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player after hitting .500 (11 for 22) in the tournament, including two home runs in Sunday’s championship round.
“That’s an award for the whole team,” said Cokinos, crediting everyone from the pitching staff to each and every batter around him.
St. Mary’s closer Jonathan Perez (Jr., San Antonio) got the win, striking out three in 3 2/3 innings pitched in one of his longest outings of the season. The Stevens High School graduate now leads the nation in saves with 18.
Perez forced a groundout to second to end the game. What followed was a classic championship scene, with the Rattlers racing toward Perez to dog pile.
“I just saw Mario throw the ball to first,” Perez said of the final out. “I don’t know what direction I got him from. The next thing I know, we’re all dogpiling.”
Perez joined Cokinos on the All-Tournament team, as did fellow pitcher Skye Severns (Sr., Claremont, Calif.), who pitched a complete-game victory in the semifinals. Richard, who twice powered the Rattlers to victory with late-game heroics, also was named to the All-Tournament Team.
Richard went 2 for 4 with three RBIs and one run scored in Sunday’s second game, while Cokinos was 2 for 5 with an RBI and a run scored. Shortstop Esteban Raygoza (Sr., San Antonio) went 3 for 4 in the game, while third baseman Ivan Sigala (Jr., El Paso, Texas) came up with a huge 3-for-5 effort that saw him score four times.
Maldonado drove in four runs on a 2-for-4 outing.
This marks the first time St. Mary’s has advanced to the national tournament since winning it all back in ’01. The Rattlers will play either Stillman or Delta State in the opening round of the World Series next week.