San Antonio – Good things come in twos for the Rattlers as they scooped up a couple of wins over the University of Arkansas-Fort Smith to remain perfect in Heartland Conference with the help of aces on the mound.
Two of St. Mary’s aces, lead pitcher Carl O’Neal (Jr., San Antonio, Texas) and next in line Rene Solis headed Game One and Game Two of the doubleheader Friday, both earning their second wins of the season, winning 3-1 and 2-1, respectively, at Wolff Stadium.
It was a rally in the fourth inning that caused a Rattler victory in Game One when a base on balls advanced Tyler Migl (Sr., San Antonio) across the plate and a smash single from Esteban Raygoza (Sr., San Antonio) brought home two RBIs.
O’Neal had four Lion strikeouts and saw a no-run game until the fifth inning, when a line drive to left field brought a Lion home to end the game, 3-1.
Solis (So., San Antonio) had a quality start in the final game Friday, allowing one run in the second off a Lion double and pinching his way out of fully loaded bases in the fourth with seven strikeouts on the day. The Rattlers (5-1 overall, 5-0 in Heartland Conference) responded with a double of their own in the sixth with newcomer Brandon Bates (Jr., Boerne, Texas) chopping a two-base hit to center field for two RBIs for the Rattler win, 2-1.
With two of St. Mary’s top pitchers making their second appearances of the season, the Rattler closer is becoming better known with each game. Closer Jonathan Perez (RS-Jr., San Antonio, Texas) racked up a pair of saves Friday, one for each game, for his third and fourth saves of the year.
“I’ve just basically developed the mentality that I would be called upon at the end of the game,” says Perez. “Before the games I make sure my arm’s good and loose so that when I come in and have to get hot I’m not too cold.”
The Lions in the top of ninth of Game Two saw just how fast Perez could get hot, striking out three straight with the last two looking at his heater to silence a Lion comeback and give the Rattlers their fifth win and his fourth save, the second of the day, in the bag. Perez is in his third season with the Rattlers as a closer and is stepping in to fulfill the role of former knockout Sammy Rivas, who had a stellar final year last season when he earned All-American honors and surrendered a surreal grand total of one run all season.
“As far as Sammy Rivas goes, I’ve got some pretty big shoes to fill,” says Perez, who has six total strikeouts this season. “He’s one of my better buds and we’ve been through thick and thin together so I root for him. We’re side by side and right now he’s pulling for me. Filling his shoes is going to be tough to do, so I’m just trying to go out there and do my job.”
Perez’s mind constantly on succeeding this season is exactly where it needs to be as the Rattlers are gaining for a repeat of last season. With early success of undefeated Heartland Conference face-offs, the intensity of the league hasn’t been lost on St. Mary’s, nor on head coach Charlie Migl.
“In my whole career, I’ve only been tossed three times,” says Migl, who is in his 26th year with St. Mary’s, “so I’m not a big arguer. But I feel at times if I think that I’m right, I’m going to argue.”
Migl’s toss came in the middle of Game Two after a disagreement with the home plate ump, leaving him absent from the win in Game Two. But he still knows it was just important as the first.
“We’ve got a lot of conference games,” Migl said, “and I know this is cliché, but we’re taking one at a time. Especially when you’re home, you know you really want to be taking care of business. All these games, even though it’s early in the season, it’s all the same: these wins are the same as if you win at the end, so it’s better if you can get as many as you can early.”
St. Mary’s will look to close out the three-game series against the University of Arkansas-Fort Smith with a sweep tomorrow at Wolff Stadium at 1 p.m.