Laredo, Texas – It’s not often that the No. 1-ranked St. Mary’s pitching staff asks its bats to bail it out for a win.

But on Friday, the Rattlers’ hitters were more than willing – and ready – to take on that challenge.

Exploding for 15 runs, St. Mary’s topped Texas A&M International 15-11 in Game 1 before cruising to a more conventional 9-2 win in Game 2 of the three-game series.

Rene Solis (So., San Antonio) fanned 12 to improve to 11-2 in picking up the Game 2 win, while Billy Richard (Jr., Schertz, Texas) was a triple away from hitting for the cycle in Game 1. Richard totaled five hits, five RBIs and two homers between the two games, while M.P. Cokinos (Jr., Houston) homered in the Game 2 win.

In the opener, St. Mary’s trailed 3-0 after two innings before taking a 4-3 lead in the third. That advantage swelled to 7-3, but the Dustdevils bounced back to draw within one in the fifth.

But then the Rattler bats took over, scoring eight in the sixth to lead 15-6, though the Dustdevils would answer with five runs of their own to close the gap somewhat.

In that sixth inning, St. Mary’s scored eight runs on six hits and two Dustdevil errors, with a Richard two-RBI double coming in the middle of the scoring onslaught.

Carl O’Neal gave up more runs than he’s accustomed to, surrendering six earned runs after coming into the game with a 1.31 ERA. Still, with the Rattler bats heating up O’Neal was on point enough to improve to 11-0 on the season behind three strikeouts in 4 1/3 innings.

Shortstop Esteban Raygoza (Sr., San Antonio) had three RBIs on a 2-for-5 outing, while Cokinos and Derek Moczygemba (Jr., Bulverde, Texas) had two RBIs apiece.

Game 2 was less nerve-wracking, as St. Mary’s controlled it from start to finish after jumping to a 5-0 lead in the second inning. Josh McElroy (Sr., Helotes, Texas) and Mario Maldonado (Fr., Laredo, Texas) joined Richard in driving in two runs each in the game as St. Mary’s improved to 40-8 on the season and 30-5 in Heartland Conference play.

Solis, masterful as usual in the game, scattered 10 hits but allowed just one earned run. He and O’Neal have anchored a Rattler pitching staff that entered the week with a nation-leading 2.13 ERA.

St. Mary’s will close out the Heartland Conference portion of its schedule Saturday in Laredo at 12 p.m.

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