ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. –Heading into Saturday, the Lobos expected to get a solid game out of their starting pitcher, and as it turns out that’s exactly what they got. What was unexpected, though, was who the pitcher was.
Victor Sanchez, who got the last-minute call to start, hurled a career-best 5.0 innings while allowing just one run on two hits and a walk as UNM (6-3-1) cruised to a 17-1 victory over Northern Colorado (2-8).
“My fastball command definitely helped me out today,” he said. “That helps out your offspeed stuff too. I just went out there and tried to throw first-pitch strikes and get the hitters off balance a little bit.”
UNM and UNC were expected to play a doubleheader Saturday, but weather concerns pushed the twin bill to Sunday. The Lobos did not want to risk running expected starter Colton Thomson out there, only to have to potentially sit through a lengthy rain delay and not be able to continue. So they turned to Sanchez, and it turned out to be a great decision.
“He did it at a moment’s notice,” UNM head coach Ray Birmingham said. “We’re not playing a doubleheader because the (rain) might be here any minute and we’d have to dump it. We don’t want to have to start a pitcher and dump the game. … Sanchez did a great job.”
Sanchez, who struck out five, stepped up admirably at the 11th hour, although he admitted it wasn’t that out of the ordinary for him.
“I don’t mind it,” he said. “Both my starts (this year) have been short notice both times, and I haven’t really had time to change my routine. So I just go out there like last year, but I’m throwing a little bit better than last year.”
It was a gutsy performance by the sophomore, who, after making nine relief appearances last season, has gained confidence in his second year according to Birmingham.
“That’s a kid that needed confidence,” he said. “That’s a kid that came out his freshman year to try out for baseball and during one of my barking sessions, which was my first one, he snuck out of the room it scared him so bad. He has come a million miles (since then). He’s got good stuff and he’s showing people what he can do. It was a great job.”
The Bears actually scored the game’s first run in the top of the second, but after that it was all New Mexico. UNM scored twice in the bottom of the frame to take the lead, then added two more in the fourth, nine in the fifth, three in the sixth and one more in the seventh. Four Lobos finished with three hits as UNM pounded out a season-high 18 while also drawing a season-high nine walks.
“We did a great job with two outs tonight,” Chase Harris said. “It wasn’t just one person. We were going back-to-back-to-back and we just started rolling, especially in the fifth inning.”
The game was still in doubt in the fifth as UNM only led 4-1, but the Lobos sent 13 men to the plate while smashing seven hits and drawing three walks to increase their lead to 13-1.
“Johnny (Pustay) made the comment that felt a little like last year,” Harris said. “It’s good to see it all come together like that.”
Of the Lobos’ 17 runs, nine came with two outs, and as Harris said, everyone got involved. All nine starters for the Lobos reached base and scored and eight of them drove in a run. Sam Haggerty, batting leadoff for the second straight game, went 3-for-5 with a walk and three RBIs. Jered Meek walked three times in the second spot in the lineup. Harris was 3-for-5 with a team-high four RBIs. Alex Real drove in and scored a pair of runs. Pustay singled twice, doubled once and scored three times. Jack Zoellner made his first start at first base and added a double, a single, a run scored and an RBI. And Jared Holley, the No. 9 hitter in the lineup, doubled, singled twice and scored three times.
After their big inning the Lobos used a pair of relievers to finish off the Bears. Jonathan Cuellar pitched an inning and allowed a harmless single. Tyler Gibson then came in to pitch the last three frames, giving up just one hit and one walk, to earn his first career save.
The doubleheader on Sunday will begin at 11 a.m. with game two following approximately half an hour after the conclusion of game one. Thomson will get his start tomorrow, as will senior righty Josh Walker. Both games will be streamed live on GoLobos.com, and ESPN Radio 101.7 The TEAM will broadcast game two.
Notes: Lobo pitching has held the opposition to 13 runs in UNM’s last seven games … freshman Chris DeVito also doubled for UNM … Meek stole his first base of the season and Holley stole his second … the attendance was 790 … freshman Danny Collier recorded his first hit, a single in the seventh … junior Matt Reyes scored his first run in UNM’s nine-run fifth … Lobo pitchers are holding opponents to a .216 batting average.