Goodwell Okla. – Going into the danger zone of a possible loss, the No. 2 St. Mary’s Rattlers halted the opportunity of the Aggies to gain a one-up on them Saturday, scoring six runs in their last at-bat to erase a one-run deficit and pull with a victory to sweep the series.
By the end of the ninth inning, the Rattlers (35-7, 24-3) had a 9-4 win over Oklahoma Panhandle State (4-35, 4-26) that was all but unusual for St. Mary’s.
St. Mary’s comeback game started off shaky from the mound, with starting pitcher Skye Severns (Sr., Claremont, Cali.) unable to pick up on the momentum established by fellow starters Carl O’Neal and Rene Solis in Games 1 and 2, when they combined for 17 strikeouts.
The Rattler bats also started slow as St. Mary’s went hitless until getting a hit in the seventh. Their six hits for the day came in stark contrast to their heavy bats Friday, when St. Mary’s smacked a combined 29 hits for the doubleheader.
But it was when the final five hits occurred that the makings of a comeback game emerged, with a Rattler team fighting to stay at the top of the Heartland Conference breaking through.
After 2.1 innings, the Rattlers fell to a 4-0 deficit to the Aggies. But relief pitcher Kyle Bumpas stepped up and did just that, relieving the Rattlers of any more Aggie runs and allowing only one hit out of the Aggies’ seven in his 5.2 innings to allow the Rattlers the momentum to pull ahead.
The fourth inning saw one Rattler run caused by an Aggie error until St. Mary’s connected for its first hit in the seventh. Josh McElroy (Sr., Boerne, Texas) broke open the six-hit game, pounding a single to center field for an RBI with M.P. Cokinos (Jr., Houston) keeping it alive with a sacrifice fly to bring in another.
The Rattlers went hitless and scoreless in the eighth, leading them into their last at-bat in the ninth down one, 4-3. The pressure-packed inning seemed to be what St. Mary’s needed to shine, as they pelted five hits for six runs to seal the victory at 9-4.
Ivan Sigala’s leadoff (Jr., El Paso, Texas) single began the Rattler hits as well as the three-pitcher rotation for the inning for the Aggies. Sigala crossed home after an Aggie sent Mario Maldonado (Fr., Laredo, Texas) to second and a walked Derek Moczygemba (Jr., Bulverde, Texas) to third. A pitching change fit Billy Richard’s (Jr., Schertz, Texas) liking as he smacked a single to bring Moczygemba home and Maldonado to third. On their toes after a wild pitch, Maldonado scored to bring the lead to 6-4, allowing Richard to trek to third. McElroy took advantage of Richard’s position and brought him home with an RBI single. Cokinos followed his lead with another RBI single to bring McElory home for an 8-4 lead.
A final pitching change greeted the man who started it all, Sigala. He ended it as well with a hard-hit single to add to the final tally of the Rattlers’ comeback inning.
Bumpas picked up his third win of the season to improve his record to 3-1 and ERA to 1.50, while McElroy led the bats with two hits and two RBIs. Cokinos came away with two RBIs as well, and Richard and Sigala each had one apiece.
The Rattlers’ sweep of the Aggies still has them sitting as the No. 1 seed in the conference. However, the Rattlers are just two losses ahead of rival St. Edward’s, with whom they dropped a pair to earlier this season. The teams will meet back up in their last three home games of the season next weekend in a series that will likely decide the regular-season champion.
St. Mary’s will have its last non-conference home game Tuesday against the University of Texas A&M-Kingsville at the Nelson Wolff Stadium at 6 p.m.