ALBUQUEQUE, N.M. - Coming into the 2014 season UNM redshirt sophomore right-hander Victor Sanchez had never saved a game in his life. Now, roughly two-thirds of the way through the season, he is considered one of the top relievers in the entire country.
The National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association named Sanchez to the Midseason Watch List for the Stopper of the Year Award, which is given annually to the top relief pitcher in Division I. He is one of 50 players named to the list.
"I'm honored," he said. "That's really cool. I never would have thought that would be possible coming into the year. I just go out there and try to do my job to help the team win."
Sanchez, who is a product of Volcano Vista HS in Albuquerque, was 1-0 with a 6.75 ERA in nine appearances spanning 8.0 innings in 2013. He was so erratic that UNM pitching coach Dan Spencer nicknamed him Shotgun because the pitch chart from his bullpen sessions was sprayed all over the page like a shotgun spray.
"I was wild (last year) and couldn't throw strikes so the nickname stuck," Sanchez said. "I like it, though. I don't mind it at all."
The nickname may have stuck, but the results have been completely different for Sanchez this season. He is 3-0 with a team-high seven saves and a sparkling 0.98 ERA in 27.2 innings over 16 appearances in 2014. He has struck out 26 while allowing just 10 hits and 10 walks. Opponents are hitting a meager .109 off him, and it doesn't matter if he's facing righties (.103 batting average against) or lefties (.118). He has not allowed a single hit over his last 8.1 innings of work, dating back to April 5.
It's no surprise then that as the season has gone on he has become UNM's go-to closer, and he enjoys the role even though he doesn't like that term much.
"I don't really like looking at it like closing," he said with a laugh after UNM's 4-3 win over No. 21 Texas Tech Monday afternoon. "That feels like a lot of pressure to me. I just look at it like I need three outs and the ballgame is over after that. That's the way I look at it."
Sanchez is one of two Mountain West players on the list, joining San Diego State's Michael Cederoth, who is second in the nation with 15 saves. A full list of the relievers and the complete release can be found here.
Nominations for the NCBWA Stopper of the Year Award were made by baseball sports information/media relations contacts. At the conclusion of the regular season, the Division I national saves leader and four other relief pitching standouts will be selected as finalists and released Wednesday, June 4, prior to start of NCAA Super Regional tournament competition.
The NCBWA's All-America Committee will select the winner, with this year's recipient to be announced during the 2014 College World Series.