By Dave Wagner
Portales’ Daniel Sanchez wasn’t at his best on the mound on Friday, but with plenty of run support it really didn’t matter.
The Rams put together three innings of at least five runs and beat Shiprock 16-6 in the opener of a best-of-3 Class 3A state baseball round-of-16 series at Ram Field. The contest was called in the bottom of the fifth because of the 10-run rule.
Two games, if necessary, are scheduled for 11 a.m. today, with the eighth-seeded Rams (15-12) needing to win one.
Sanchez, a senior left-hander, allowed just five hits in four-plus innings, but struggled with command and issued five walks.
By the time he was replaced, however, PHS already had an 11-5 lead.
“I didn’t feel like I performed my best,” Sanchez said. “At times, I was trying to aim the ball instead of just pitching.”
Junior outfielder Omar Legarda clubbed an 0-2 pitch from Shiprock’s Juilian Aspaas for a three-run triple, highlighting the Rams’ five-run second. They added six in the fourth and five in the fifth, ending it on Garrett Wagner’s two-out RBI single to left-center.
“That kind of got us going a little bit,” Rams coach Dusty Nusser said of Legarda’s blast to the base of the center field wall. “He got (a pitch) he could handle.”
Nusser said if the Rams had scored one more run in the fourth, for a 12-2 lead, he probably would have gone to senior Jarret Faust to start the next inning.
Instead, the Chieftains (20-5) took advantage of three hits, a walk, two wild pitches and four Rams errors to close to 11-6. Faust retired three of the five hitters he faced to get out of it.
Portales compiled 14 hits off three Chieftains hurlers, with No. 8 hitter Emilio Lovato going 3-for-4 with three stolen bases and No. 9 hitter Jacob Salgado reaching all four times on a single, two walks and a hit-by-pitch and scoring three runs.
“That was good to see,” Nusser said. “The bottom of our lineup was on base a lot, and that was huge for us.”
The Rams will pitch Wagner, a sophomore right-hander, in today’s first game. Nusser said how that tilt works out will dictate what PHS would do in a potential rubber game.
Sanchez said he’s ready, if needed.
“I think Grant will do good tomorrow and get us a win,” he said. “But if it comes to a Game 3, I’d want the ball again.”