San Antonio – Two of the last “Battle of the Saints” games of the regular season were nothing short of high-stake intensity as St. Mary’s split the day with rival St. Edward’s.
Game One was the thriller. The No. 1-ranked Rattler bench was up and rowdy as St. Mary’s (37-8, 27-5) nearly pulled out a victory in a marathon, 13-inning battle before falling 6-3 with the Rattlers uncharacteristically committing six errors in the game that lasted nearly 4 ½ hours at the SAISD Sports Complex.
Game Two was the calmer of the bunch with St. Mary’s regaining its prowess on the field and at the plate to shut down the Hilltoppers (29-10, 22-6) 3-0 in just under two hours.
Rattler ace Carl O’Neal (Jr., San Antonio) pitched a would-be complete game of seven innings in Game One, but as the game nearly doubled to 13 innings, Rattler closer Jonathan Perez (RS-Jr., San Antonio) spent more time on the mound than usual as he pitched the next three innings to try to finish it before relief pitcher Kyle Bumpas (So., El Paso, Texas) went the final three.
But the showdown between the top two teams in the Heartland Conference was not only felt on the hill as the Hilltoppers also used just three arms for the four-hour game.
Both teams scored the same number of runs in each inning that saw a run scored, except for the game-changing 13th inning when St. Edward’s pulled away with three to end the game, 6-3. A two-run third and one-run seventh inning for both teams showcased their bats, with St. Mary’s totaling nine hits and St. Edward’s totaling 10 hits for the day.
Senior Esteban Raygoza (San Antonio) led it for both teams with three hits in Game One, including an RBI double while Billy Richard (Jr., San Antonio) and M.P. Cokinos (Jr., Houston) pelted two apiece.
“We had opportunities offensively to score,” head coach Charlie Migl said. “But the problem was we didn’t take advantage of that, and defensively if you make six errors in a game you really don’t deserve to win that game.”
The Rattlers pushed past their loss quickly, however, performing at the top once more in Game Two.
“Rene (Solis) just dominated the game,” Migl said.
Solis (So., San Antonio), the co-leader in conference for strikeouts along with fellow ace O’Neal, took charge of Game Two, going the distance in the seven-inning game. The Rattlers’ No. 2 allowed just three hits in the shutout, improving his record to 10-2 on the season.
“A lot of guys on the team have been thinking about these games for a week,” Solis said. “And we’ve just been preparing mentally and physically. Yes it was a hard loss (in Game One), but we put it behind us and got this next win.”
The Rattlers lit up for six hits in Game Two with Brandon Bates (Jr., Boerne, Texas) and Derek Moczygemba (Jr., Bulverde, Texas) leading with two hits apiece, right from the start.
The Rattlers scored their first run off an RBI single from Bates in the first inning, followed by an RBI double the very next inning from freshman Mario Maldonado (Laredo, Texas). St. Mary’s gave itself cushion of an extra run in the final inning with Richard crossing home on a wild pitch to end the game 3-0.
It will be the final showdown of the regular season Sunday as the “Battle of the Saints” completes its series with the Rattlers hoping to clinch the series – and the conference regular-season championship with a win.
“Our strategy is going to be the same as it always is (tomorrow),” Solis said. “We’re just going to try to get the outs in order and start getting some runs together.”
The Rattlers complete their series against St. Edward’s on Sunday, potentially clinching the regular-season championship with a victory.
St. Mary’s will take on St. Edward’s for the final time Sunday at the SAISD Stadium at 1 p.m.