CARY, N.C. – St. Mary’s fans have long figured they had the nation’s top pitching staff. Friday’s news merely confirmed their suspicion.

Rattlers ace Carl O’Neal has been named the Ron Lenz Pitcher of the Year, an award handed out by Daktronics, Inc., to the nation’s top NCAA Division II pitcher. As the winner of the award, O’Neal made the All-America First Team.

It marks the first time a Rattler baseball player has ever been recognized as the nation’s top player, and O’Neal’s All-America First Team selection also marks the Rattlers’ first such distinction since Jesse Gutierrez was named to the American Baseball Coaches Association All-America First Team during their national-championship season of 2001. 

As if that wasn’t enough, joining O’Neal (Jr., San Antonio) on the All-America team was fellow star pitcher Rene Solis (So., San Antonio), who in his first season as a starter made the Second Team. Catcher M.P. Cokinos (Jr., Houston), a transfer from the University of Houston, made the Third Team.

It is the first time the Rattlers have had three All-America selections since their days in the NAIA, when in 1998 three players were named NAIA All-Americans.

For O’Neal, this season has been nothing short of sensational. The right-handed hurler is 13-0 on the season, tied for the nation lead in wins, to go along with a 2.27 ERA and 93 strikeouts in 95.0 innings.

Solis – the No. 2 pitcher in the Rattlers’ arsenal – has numbers just as impressive, posting a 13-2 record with a 1.55 ERA and 106 strikeouts in 110.0 innings pitched. He also has been named a finalist for the coveted Tino Martinez Award, doled out by College Baseball Lineup to the nation’s top D-II player regardless of position.

Cokinos has been one of the Rattlers’ top performers at the plate, batting .340 to go along with eight home runs and a team-high 53 RBIs. He also has committed just a single error behind the plate.

St. Mary’s (48-9), ranked No. 1 in the nation, takes on No. 2 Delta State in the first round of the NCAA Division II College World Series at 4 p.m. (CDT) Sunday at the USA Baseball Complex in Cary, N.C.

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