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Sanchez steps in and steps up as Lobos win easily

Sophomore Victor Sanchez gave the Lobos five solid innings in a spot start victory over Northern Colorado.
Courtesy of UNM

Sophomore right-hander Victor Sanchez is getting used to being called upon at a moment's notice.

This season, though, it is not in relief but as a starting pitcher, a role he is acclimating to quite well.

Sanchez threw five solid innings as New Mexico rolled to a 17-1 rout of Northern Colorado on Saturday afternoon.

"I don't mind it," Sanchez said. "My starts have been kind of short notice both times. I haven't really had time to change anything. I just take the hill and throw like I did last year. But I'm throwing a little bit better than I did last year. That's probably why I'm getting the opportunity."

Sanchez allowed one run on two hits and one walk while striking out five in his five innings of work. It marked his second spot start of the year — he threw two scoreless innings against Arizona State on Feb. 18 — in addition to two relief appearances.

"I think it's just a year of experience," Sanchez said. "You get rid of the nerves, like last year, coming in as a freshman it's kind of hard."

The Albuquerque native joined the Lobos (6-3-1) last season and pitched nine games in relief, but that was only after he had nearly quit the team.

"That's a kid that came out his freshman year to try out for baseball and during one of my barking sessions which is the first one ... he snuck out of the room it scared him so bad," coach Ray Birmingham said. "He's come a million miles. He's got good stuff. He's capable of shutting people down. He did today."

Sanchez's only spot of trouble on Saturday came in the second inning when Nick Miller hit a leadoff single, went to second on Colby Harrison's sacrifice bunt and then scored on Andrew Coffman's single to right-center.

From there, the sophomore went untouched.

"Fastball command definitely helped me out today," Sanchez said. "Fastball command helps out your offspeed a little bit, too. And just going out there and (throwing a) first-pitch strike, you have more confidence in throwing everything else."

Sanchez's teammates, in the meantime, were busy manhandling the Bears' pitching staff. The Lobos pounded out 18 hits, with Chase Harris, Sam Haggerty, John Pustay and Jared Holley all racking up three hits apiece.

"We did a great job with two outs, I thought," said Harris, who had a team-high four RBI. "I don't know how many two-out RBI we had. It wasn't just one person. Once we got rolling we really started rolling."

UNM countered NCU's second-inning run with two in the bottom of that frame. The Lobos would add two more in the fourth before breaking the game open with a nine-run fifth inning. They would go on to tack on three more runs in the sixth and one in the seventh.

"It felt like it did last year," Harris said. "It's good to see it all coming together. We're raising the team batting average to where we want it to be, leading the Mountain West."

Jonathan Cuellar pitched a scoreless sixth inning, followed by three scoreless frames from Tyler Gibson, who actually earned his first save.

"Sanchez did a great job and everybody that came in after him did a great job," Birmingham said.

Saturday's game was supposed to be the opener of a doubleheader, but the second game was postponed until Sunday. The new doubleheader between the Lobos and Bears (2-8) will start at 11 a.m.