San Antonio – The Rattlers, both new and old, came out swinging to shut down Oklahoma Panhandle State in another exhibit of a stacked lineup.
St. Mary’s took its fourth straight sweep in Heartland Conference play Saturday, allowing them to hold strong to the No. 1 spot in the rankings with a 9-0 closeout to win the series over Panhandle State.
The eighth-ranked team in the country might have shaken the mound for the Aggies (0-12, 0-9 in conference) as three straight walks in the first allowed M.P. Cokinos (Jr., Houston) to grab an RBI to start off the nine-run game.
The third saw the same pitching staff, giving leadoff man Tyler Migl (Sr., San Antonio), who would total three walks for the day, a free base. He would later score on a passed ball. Cokinos’ hit by pitch, Esteban Raygoza’s (Sr., San Antonio) single to left field and Ivan Sigala’s (Jr., El Paso, Texas) walk loaded the bases with two outs for freshman Mario Maldonado (Laredo, Texas).
In his first season as a Rattler (13-2, 12-0 in conference), newcomer Maldonado picked up three of his four total games so far this year in the three-game series over the Aggies. He has taken over second base with five assists and two putouts and has added another element of power to the lineup, picking up two RBIs Saturday for a total of four for the series.
“Right now I like where I am at. Hopefully the coaches keep putting me there because I like playing second base,” says Maldonado, who has two stolen bases so far this season. “But I was recruited to pitch.”
The Rattlers’ promising new second baseman and strength at the plate apparently has a pitching arm – and playing in the field again shows St. Mary’s versatile talent as a team.
“As soon as I get my arm healthy again I’m going to hopefully start pitching again and see where it takes me,” Maldonado says. “I mean, I do both so wherever the coaches need me I feel comfortable with both, so it doesn’t matter to me.”
Stepping up with the bases loaded with two men out in the third showed Maldonado is also comfortable at the plate.
Maldonado smacked one to right center that was strong enough to bring home two RBIs and bring the Rattlers to a 4-0 lead. Maldonado had three hits and four RBIs for the series.
The sixth saw another rally with the Rattlers’ usual hitters stepping up. Singles from Raygoza, Sigala, Billy Richard (Jr., Schertz, Texas) and Josh McElroy (Sr., Helotes, Texas) brought the Rattlers to an 8-0 lead and threatened the Aggies to another run-rule as the team did in Friday’s second game.
St. Mary’s 10 hits Friday consisted of these sluggers, including Maldonado, with Richard picking up three, and Raygoza, Sigala and McElroy with two apiece. Maldonado also added one.
The Rattlers’ final hit of the day was the longest with Sigala pounding his first home run of the season in the seventh to end the game 9-0.
St. Mary’s will get a break from conference play as they hit the road for its next game Tuesday against the University of Houston-Victoria in Victoria, Texas at 5 p.m.