San Antonio – After receiving the No. 4 rank the country and No. 1 spot in the Heartland Conference preseason poll, the Rattlers lived up to the hype Saturday in a slew of “firsts” for the season.
St. Mary’s (2-0, 2-0 in conference) rolled toward a pair of victories in its first doubleheader over Newman University (0-2, 0-2 in conference), proving already comfortable in its home-away-from-home of Nelson Wolff Stadium, rounding out a 4-3 victory in the opener and pinching a shutout in game two, 9-0.
In addition to banking their first two conference games of the season, the Rattlers had another promising first Saturday.
In his first-ever at-bat as a Rattler, newcomer Michael “M.P.” Cokinos smacked a home run at the first ball to cross the plate. As he rounded the bases the Jets may have thought that would be the only homer they would see from the Rattlers, until Cokinos stepped in the batters’ box in the third inning. Cokinos squared up and again plummeted a home run past the left-field fence, knocking in two RBIs to help the Rattlers to the season-opening, 4-3 victory.
“The guys in front of me got on base and allowed me to get good pitches to hit,” Cokinos said of his back-to-back homers. “And, you know, I just took a swing and hit it.”
Cokinos, the Rattlers’ new starting catcher and immediate slugger, ended the two-game day with four RBIs off three hits in five official at-bats. He also walked twice.
Veteran Tyler Migl (Sr., San Antonio, Texas) did not fail to rise up to his usual talent-packed ability, leading the team with four hits, smacking two doubles for the day. As the list of firsts for the Rattlers’ season-opening double-header is extensive, Migl knows just how vital a first win is.
“(The wins) were very important, especially because it was conference,” says Migl, who had three RBIs Saturday. “Because a conference game now is the same as a conference game in May. Just to win in general to start off, it gets the team morale up, it gets everybody’s confidence up.”
Confidence can be felt on the mound for the Rattlers with leadoff pitcher Carl O’Neal (Jr., San Antonio, Texas) throwing 5.2 innings in Game 1 for five strikeouts and one earned run, picking up his first win of the season. Rene Solis took the diamond for the second game, pitching seven innings for three strikeouts and zero earned runs for the victory.
As the Rattlers loosen their limbs from off-season, they haven’t skipped a beat in remaining at the competitive forefront for the league. Saturday gave Rattler fans – as well as the new Rattlers – a preview of the months to come.
“Our pitching staff is real competitive,” says Cokinos. “We have deep pitching staff, great hitters in the lineup and I’m definitely looking forward to the season.”
St. Mary’s will close out the three-game series against Newman University tomorrow at Nelson Wolff Stadium at 12 p.m.