April 22, 2012
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M – Coming into the season the University of New Mexico baseball team knew it had a fantastic closer in senior Gera Sanchez. What they didn’t know is that Sanchez would turn into a strikeout machine and be the team’s most dominant starter.
In only his third start of the season, Sanchez struck out 10 and allowed only one unearned run in eight innings to improve his record to 5-1 as the Lobos (22-18) swept Florida Gulf Coast (15-25) by a 2-1 score Sunday afternoon at Isotopes Park.
Sanchez has struck out at least nine batters in each of his last four appearances, all spanning at least six innings.
“I just felt good and threw my pitches for strikes,” Sanchez said. “I just competed out there.”
“He has done that all year,” UNM head coach Ray Birmingham said.
Indeed he has. In 15 appearances this season, Sanchez has allowed more than one run only twice. He now has 63 strikeouts in 42 and two-thirds innings, which equals about 13.3 strikeouts per nine innings.
And the Lobos did just enough on offense to ensure Sanchez got the win he deserved.
Kyle Stiner led off the bottom of the third with a single. Two batters later Mitchell Garver executed a perfect hit and run, lacing a ground ball in the hole between first and second, which sent Stiner to third. Ben Woodchick then collected his seventh RBI of the week with a two-strike single to right to score Stiner.
The Eagles tied the score in the top of the fourth, but the teams traded zeroes until the seventh.
Once again it was Stiner getting things started. He led off and was down 0-2 before Florida Gulf Coast’s starter, Jason Forjet, hit him on the foot. Two batters later he was still on first with Woodchick at the plate. On a 3-1 pitch he stole second. Then with the count full, Woodchick drew ball four to put two men on for Peterson.
On Forjet’s 118th, and ultimately last, pitch of the day, Peterson smacked a single through the hole between third and short to score Stiner.
“I think he was just dying out of juice a little bit,” Peterson said. “He just left a changeup up and I put a good swing on it.”
It looked like there might have been a close play at the plate, but FGCU’s third baseman Zack Tillery cut the ball off, which allowed Stiner to score with ease.
Sanchez struck out two in the eighth, before giving way to the bullpen in the ninth. Will Mathis came in and walked the only batter he faced. He was replaced by Bobby Mares, whose last save came in the championship game of the Mountain West tournament last season.
A sacrifice bunt moved the runner to second. A short tapper just in front of the plate moved the runner to third with two outs. The Eagles then sent Kevin Young in to pinch hit.
Mares’ first two pitches fooled Young completely and the count was 0-2. The third pitch resulted in a weak groundball to Stiner at second, who handled it easily and threw to Trey Porras at first to finish the game.
“I called the bullpen and I said, ‘Somebody please support (Sanchez),” Birmingham said. “And (Sanchez’s) best friend Bobby Mares came in and pitched lights out. Lights out.
“That’s the best Bobby has thrown and that is what Bobby is capable of doing. We have to have that.”
The win was the fifth-straight for the Lobos, which is a new season-high.
“We’re coming together as a team,” Peterson said. “We’ve got good team chemistry right now. Pitchers are pitching, hitters are hitting, and we’re playing defense. So we’re doing it all right now I feel like.”
“Records and wins and losses, so what,” Birmingham said. “We want to get to (the College World Series in) Omaha. And today’s performance by Gera, a 2-1 ballgame at Isotopes Park, is what I believe he can do. People can pitch here and pitching is the key to any team getting to Omaha.”
UNM looks to continue its excellent play when Texas Tech comes to town for two games on Tuesday and Wednesday. The Lobos defeated the Red Raiders in Lubbock, Tex., by 10-3 and 6-4 scores to start their win streak.
“Texas Tech is a good ball club,” Birmingham said. “They’ve been in a slump lately and I don’t want to be the guy the break out of the slump against.
“But they’ve got a good baseball team.”
Tuesday’s game is scheduled for 6 p.m. (MT) and senior Rudy Jaramillo is scheduled to get the start for the Lobos. Fans can listen to the game live on ESPN 101.7 The Team.