CARY, N.C. – Carl O’Neal was propped up atop the bench in St. Mary’s dugout, staring on quietly when catcher M.P. Cokinos approached him in the moments before Tuesday’s game.
Pounding O’Neal on the chest, the All-America catcher talked up his All-America pitcher, ending with: “Do you know what you’re capable of?”
If O’Neal didn’t already know, he quickly found out.
O’Neal struck out eight and scattered just two hits in eight innings, and first baseman Tyler Migl homered and tripled in a 13-2 victory over No. 11 Indianapolis in an elimination game of the NCAA Division II College World Series at the USA Baseball National Training Complex.
Eight Rattlers had a hit and six recorded an RBI, as St. Mary’s (49-10) advances to play Catawba at 6 p.m. (CDT) tomorrow.
“Back at regionals, in the final game I came in (in relief) and struggled bad and almost blew it,” said O’Neal (Jr., San Antonio), who improved to 14-0 on the season, one win shy of the No. 1-ranked St. Mary’s single-season record. “That was a big reminder of what I’m here for, what I’m here to do. I came into this game and wasn’t going to hold anything back.”
He never does – not since a South Central regional start his freshman year that he’ll never forget.
Having cruised through the first three innings in the game against Abilene Christian, O’Neal came into the fourth fired up. Then came a series of miscues that inning, including several walks and a misplayed groundball in a game the Rattlers eventually lost in extra innings.
“I didn’t do my job,” he said. “That’s what plays in the back of my head at all times.”
Being the fiery competitor he is, the Rattlers’ ace vowed to never again to allow the Rattlers’ season to end on his watch.
O’Neal, the Daktronics National Pitcher of the Year, overcame a shaky first inning that included two walks and a run allowed to carry a no-hitter into the sixth inning before it was broken up with two outs in the frame.
“It always feels good,” he said.
Also feeling good is Migl (Sr., San Antonio), whose midseason struggles at the plate appear long behind him after Tuesday’s display.
Migl went 2 for 5 with three RBIs, and it was his fourth-inning two-run blast that broke open a 1-1 tie.
Fittingly, it was Cokinos (Jr., Houston) – one of the team’s undisputed leaders – firing up Migl the night before the big game.
“M.P. is my roommate, and last night we just kind of talked about other stuff,” Migl said. “We didn’t talk much baseball. But he told me to go out there, be aggressive. You never know when it’s going to be your last game.
“This morning was the best I’ve ever felt before a baseball game.”
Apparently, he wasn’t the only one.
Second baseman “Super” Mario Maldonado (Fr., Laredo, Texas) went 3 for 4 with three RBIs and two runs scored, while shortstop Esteban Raygoza (Sr., San Antonio) was 2 for 5 with two runs scored. Cokinos added two more hits, including a double off the wall, in a 2-for-5 outing that saw him drive in one run and score another.
St. Mary’s actually trailed early in the game, falling behind 1-0 in the first inning. But all that did was spark the Rattlers’ comeback-kid mentality.
Dating back to the start of regionals, St. Mary’s last five wins have all come after giving up the first run.
St. Mary’s had 15 hits in the game – 11 more than in their College World Series-opening loss to Delta State.