WARRENSBURG, Mo. – Billy the Kid struck again Saturday – and so did the rest of the Rattlers’ comeback kids, leaving St. Mary’s on the doorstep of advancing to the College World Series.
Richard laced a two-out walk-off single to right field to fuel a 2-1 victory over Heartland Conference foe St. Edward’s in the third round of the NCAA Division II South Central Regional, powering the Rattlers into Sunday’s championship round at Crane Stadium.
“I was just seeing the ball real well today,” said Richard (Jr., Schertz, Texas), who drove in Ivan Sigala (Jr., El Paso, Texas) to help the Rattlers advance to play the winner of Saturday’s St. Edward’s-Central Missouri elimination game at 12 p.m. “I put a good swing on it and just found a hole.”
Pitcher Skye Severns (Sr., Claremont, Calif.) went the distance for second-seeded St. Mary’s (47-8) against the No. 6 seeded Hilltoppers, striking out six in the second-round regional showdown. Richard led the Rattlers at the plate, going 4 for 5 with an RBI.
It was a familiar script for the Rattlers, who won their 11th straight.
On Friday, Richard blasted a game-tying two-run shot to left field in the eighth inning, and teammate Josh McElroy (Sr., Helotes, Texas) bunted in the go-ahead run in the ninth to fuel a stirring win over Southern Arkansas.
Saturday was just as tense, with St. Mary’s falling behind 1-0 in the seventh only to tie it up in the eighth when shortstop Esteban Raygoza (Sr., San Antonio) drove in leftfielder Derek Moczygemba (Jr., Bulverde, Texas) on a fielder’s choice. Sigala then led off the ninth with a double, and Richard drove him in minutes later.
It marks the first time the Rattlers have made the regional-championship round since winning it all back in 2001, when they were crowned NCAA Division II national champions.
The Rattlers need just a single victory in today’s championship round to move on to nationals, while St. Edward’s or Central Missouri would need to knock off the Rattlers twice in back-to-back games to advance.
But they wouldn’t be here if not for the gritty performance turned in by Severns, whose complete game saved the Ratlers’ bullpen for tomorrow’s championship action – and also bought the Rattlers’ bats time while they waited to get going in the latter stages.
“This is amazing,” Sigala said. “Skye came out and pitched a heck of a game. We were slow with he bats but later on we all came through.”