San Antonio – From a blue-and-gold uniform under the national championship lights in Cary, N.C., to donning purple and yellow in the small town of Watertown, N.Y., just a week later, Rattler pitcher Rene Solis kept his consistency as one of the top in the league this summer.
But the return back home after St. Mary’s lost its fight for the national title didn’t settle easy for Solis (Jr., San Antonio), who was due to make a quick turnaround and appear in Watertown Wizards gear in Watertown, N.Y., for a full summer of baseball.
“It was a little depressing,” says Solis, who ended the Rattlers’ season with a team-high 110 strikeouts. “But luckily I got a week off and got some time to recuperate before the season started. I really think that that week off did me some good. I felt good going into season and going into my seven starts (with the Wizards).”
The Wizards quickly felt the wrath of Solis on the mound, where he had been gaining momentum throughout St. Mary’s regular- and- post-season runs. With Watertown, which competes in the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League, he went 4-1 and twice earned the PGCBL Pitcher of the Week award.
Shouldering the weight of the Rattlers’ recent season – a triumphant year where they won the NCAA Division II South Central Regional title but fell just short of claiming the national crown – Solis ultimately let loose and pitched the only way he knows how: with conviction.
Before stepping in for Watertown, Solis received numerous honors in his sophomore year at St. Mary’s. Among such honors were being named an American Baseball Coaches Association All-South Central Region Second Team selection, making the Daktronics All-American Second Team, being chosen a finalist for the College Baseball Lineup Tino Martinez Award and being selected to the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association All-South Central Region Second Team.
“I wouldn’t say it was my breakout season,” says Solis, who went 13-3 for the Rattlers before displaying a similar mastery on the mound with the Wizards. “I just had a really good year.”
Solis’ refocus on the summer season instantly rose him to the top of the Wizards and the league, as he slammed the season opener and did the same in his second start a week later to earn the league’s first PGCBL Pitcher of the Week award. Solis is only the second Wizard in the team’s history to win the award after his week of stellar performances. He struck out 15 batters over the two games played, with 11 shut down Opening Night.
The Wizards continued to watch the Rattler excel, as Solis started seven games to go 4-1 on the summer season, racking up the kind of stats that bumped him straight the top.
“I got to play against a lot of different guys,” says the lefty. “Guys from all around the country who are really good ballplayers.”
In his close-out performance for the Wizards, Solis nearly was perfect.
Solis tossed a one-hitter in his last game as a Wizard, retiring 18 batters in a row after the lone hit to go along with eight strikeouts. His stealth once again landed him the PGCBL Pitcher of the Week, becoming one of only two players in the league to clinch the award twice.
Solis ended with a team-best ERA of 1.31, which tied him for first in the league. Solis also allowed the fewest earned runs (seven) out of all the league’s pitchers, and allowed the fewest walks (10). In his seven games played, the ace pitched 48.0 innings with 49 strikeouts, the fourth most in the league.
Over the Rattlers’ championship-run season and his summer of Wizard baseball, Solis recorded over 160 innings on the mound and 159 strikeouts.
Succeeding in the Heartland Conference, Regional, and national tournament, Solis didn’t find himself too far away from home in San Antonio during his stay with the Wizards. Two of his fellow Rattlers, the nations’ save leader Jonathan Perez (Sr., San Antonio) and lefty Matt McClain (So., San Antonio), also starred for the Wizards. And although the rest of the Rattlers were spread out across the country, St. Mary’s future in baseball was always at the forefront of his mind.
“Even though we’re all separated we all have the hopes that we’ll do well,” Solis said. “We all have the same mindset, the same goal. We all want to improve and get better. Next year we’re definitely looking to go back. It’s without a doubt in our minds that that’s what we’re working for.”
Solis, of course, speaks of returning to the national-championship stage.
As for Solis – and presumably the rest of the Rattlers – summer baseball only served to only prep them further in remaining the No. 1 team to beat next season, a distinction they carried for much of the 2012 season.
“It was a brand-new, eye-opening experience to see that baseball extends to everywhere,” Solis said. “Everyone’s got their own different style of play and different means of playing. It was good to see that.”