SAINT MARY’S RATTLERS (39-17)
The Rattlers were College Baseball Lineup’s preseason pick to take the title last season but ultimately fell short of reaching Cary and the DII Championships after going 2-2 in the South Central Regional. Head Coach Charlie Migl, who passed the 1,000th career win mark last season, has another talented team which could compete once again for a national title and fifth straight conference crown if new additions are able to fill in holes left by graduating upperclassmen.
Like years past, the bread and butter for the Rattlers is their deep and talented pitching staff. Matt McClain and Rene Solis are two of the top hurlers in the nation and give the team a chance to win every time they take to the mound. McClain ended the season fifth in the nation in strikeouts with 108, had a 2.34 ERA and finished with an 8-4 record. He was named the Heartland Conference Pitcher of the Week an impressive three times during the season and was a Tino Martinez Award semifinalist. Solis concluded the year with an 8-2 mark and is St. Mary’s career leader in ERA at 2.07 after 226.1 innings on the mound headed into this senior season. The Rattlers do have some big time holes to fill as ace Carl O’Neal who won 13 games for the Rattlers, as well as Jonathan Perez who compiled some of the best career stats for any relief pitcher in DII history are gone, but if history is an indication, Coach Migl will have arms in place ready to replace them for the start of the season.
Consistently scoring runs was the Rattlers’ Achilles’ heel last season. The inconsistent offense would plate one or two runs in a game, and then follow up with a twenty-three run explosion. The top candidates to create runs in 2014 will be middle infielders Mario Maldonado and Al Gonzalez. Maldonado won a conference gold glove but was also effective at the plate as he hit .289 for the season. Gonzales was All Conference Second Team after batting .315 with 12 doubles, 36 RBI and led the team with a dozen multiple-hit games. Offensive reinforcements will most likely come from a trio of new bats. Brooks Orton gives the Rattlers some additional experience after playing his first two seasons at Texas State. As a freshman, Orton was a primary starter for the Bobcats in the outfield, starting 39 of the 46-game season; however he slumped last season and the change in scenery could be just what he needs to jump start his collegiate career. Another experienced hitter who is expected to jumpstart the lineup is Omar Garcia who is making his way to StMU after playing as a freshman at DI Northwestern State and last year at Howard College. Also look for freshman Zach Schneider to make a big splash on the diamond. Schneider hit .437 while recording a 6-2 record with a 2.14 ERA with 91 strikeouts on the mound as a high school senior.