March 17, 2012
San Antonio – The run-rule victory Friday was all but a memory for the Rattlers as they faced nail-biters in each game of Saturday’s doubleheader against Oklahoma Panhandle State, splitting the day’s action at St. Mary’s Softball Field.
After defeating the Aggies (14-13, 1-2) 10-2 in the series opener Friday, St. Mary’s (17-14, 2-1) saw a turn of the bat in Game One to fall 10-9 only to refocus for a 4-2 win in Game Two.
The Rattlers smashed a combined 16 hits for the day with nine in Game One. But while their bats were flying, their fielding wasn’t as precise as Game One ended with four Rattler errors to the Aggies’ zero for the day.
And it was the fumbles in the field that had head coach Donna Fields diagnosing the Rattlers’ just-above .500 season percentage.
“I think the toughest thing with this group is that we haven’t played consistent all year long,” says Fields, who has taken the Rattlers to the Heartland Conference Championship 10 out of the last 11 years. “We have some great games and the girls are hitting well but for some reason we’ve struggled in playing seven innings; it just seems like one inning has hurt us all year long.”
Fields’ analysis of the Rattlers’ game play matched their performance in Game One as the fourth inning saw five Aggie runs turn a 2-1 St. Mary’s lead into a 6-3 Panhandle State advantage.
The Rattlers gave up four more runs in the sixth only to respond with four of their own, but fell 10-9 down the wire in the bottom of the seventh. But the nine hits in the loss accounted for something, as St. Mary’s is becoming more and more of a power-hitting team with each game.
Last week’s Heartland Conference Hitter of the Week, freshman Taylor Vindrine (San Antonio), went yard for the fourth time this week in Friday’s Game One. Vidrine’s swing never fell weak, nor did the Rattlers’ as they smashed seven hits with Vidrine going yard once more in Game Two.
The freshman home-run leader with six on the season pelted a bomb in the third to give the Rattlers’ a 1-0 lead. But if you’ve been watching the St. Mary’s softball team lately, you know Vidrine isn’t the only freshman home-run hitter. Vianna Gutierrez (San Antonio) stepped up right after Vidrine to go yard for back-to-back homers, giving the Rattlers a 2-0 lead.
“When we hit the ball, we hit the ball,” says Gutierrez, who smashed a grand slam earlier this week.
The fifth continued to see the Rattlers’ prowess with the bat. Nicole Sardelich (Angleton, Texas), yet another power-playing freshman, smacked a double to bring in Shelly Lee Zawadzki (Jr., San Antonio), followed by a double from Vidrine to bring in St. Mary’s final run to end the game 4-2.
Back-to-back homers and back-to-back doubles in Game Two of Friday’s doubleheader brought the Rattlers an idea of the success they can have in the second half – and more importantly, the conference portion of the season.
“I think we are feeling really confident,” Gutierrez said. “We’re going to be a real tough team to beat.”
But despite the way the Rattlers have been excelling at the plate, all is lost if fielding is not on the same plane, as evident in a Game One loss that saw four errors undo them. Fields has faith in her team, however, and feels it’s only a matter of time before the Rattlers can stop counting their losses that could’ve been wins.
“We’ve got to learn how to play clean all throughout,” Fields says. “And really, I believe if we take care of ourselves and do things better ourselves we’re going to win more ballgames.”
St. Mary’s will have plenty of chances to rack up more wins as it takes on a five-game week next week. The Rattlers will face non-conference Abilene Christian in a doubleheader Wednesday at the St. Mary’s Softball Field. Game One is set for 2 p.m.