San Antonio – The Rattlers got their redemption.
Tuesday saw a rematch of St. Mary’s (16-4, 13-2 in conference) and cross-town rival Incarnate Word on the Rattlers’ home field as they came out with something to prove after falling to the Cardinals in their first matchup earlier this season.
The No. 11-ranked Rattlers played as if Incarnate Word was still in the Heartland Conference and charged for a six-hit, 2-0 victory with the game-winner coming from one Rattler’s first hit of the season.
Welcome to the big time, Weston Heiligman.
“This is a real big game,” said Heiligman, who matched the enormity of the game with a massive effort at the plate after being redshirted last year. “They’re not in conference with us anymore but they’re still our big rival. It’s just a big win knowing that we beat them.”
The battle was a pitching duel with both teams going hitless until a Cardinal single in the fourth. Despite a three-up, three-down rhythm for St. Mary’s and Incarnate Word, Tuesday proved there is never a dull moment when the pair face off. The opening innings saw a Cardinal ejection after someone caused ruff with the home plate ump by not leaving the game upon his ejection.
Derek Moczygemba (Jr., Bulverde, Texas) had redemption of his own on the mound after his first experience with the Cardinal bats caused his first loss of the season. Moczygemba pitched a shutout with seven strikeouts that extended past the stretch as he continued to throw his heater until the ninth inning. Moczygemba pitched himself out of danger in the fifth after a triple left a man in scoring position with only one out. Two Cardinals went down swinging back-to-back, clinching a key inning in the Rattlers’ favor.
The seventh inning saw the Rattlers light up with the first four batters connecting, starting with a leadoff single from Brandon Bates (Jr., Boerne, Texas), who pelted into left field. Ivan Sigala (Jr., El Paso, Texas) appeared to be looking for a sacrifice bunt but smacked a single instead. Esteban Raygoza (Sr., San Antonio) followed Bates’ and Sigala’s lead, earning a single of his own to bring up Heiligman (RS-Fr., Castroville, Texas), a Rattler who yet had a hit to his name, to the plate with two men on and one out.
“I feel like there’s a huge monkey off my back now,” Heiligman said.
The monkey Heiligman refers to is his first hit as a Rattler – which he achieved Tuesday. Heiligman’s bomb to centerfield brought home Sigala for the Rattlers’ first run, and his first RBI, advancing Raygoza to third. Mario Maldonado (Fr., Laredo, Texas) took advantage of Raygoza’s position on third, smacking a sacrifice fly to bring him home for the Rattlers’ final run of the day.
“It felt great. All I could think about was when I was going to get my first hit and it came in one of the bigger games of the year,” Heiligman says.
Heiligman connected at the right moment in the right game, earning not only a hit to his name but a game-winner as well.
“I feel that hopefully I’ll be more relaxed now and just be able to play,” said Heiligman, a talented player who has made seven appearances with 10 at-bats so far this season.
Other than the four-hit inning in the lucky seventh, Maldonado picked up the Rattlers’ first hit of the six-hit night with a single in the fifth, and Josh McElroy (Sr., Helotes, Texas) closed out the game with a single to center field in the bottom of the eighth.
St. Mary’s goes back to conference play starting a three game series against Texas A&M-International this weekend. Friday’s double-header begins at 2 p.m. at Wolff Stadium.