By Kevin Wilson
Twice, Daniel Sanchez headed towards second base for a stand-up double, and twice took off for a “maybe I’ll make it” triple. He beat the outfield throw both times and later scored on each, trotting home the second time off a Draven Saiz homer.
Sanchez, and the rest of his Portales teammates, were aggressive in all facets — even when it turned out they didn’t have to be — in beating Shiprock 10-0 on Saturday to pull off a 2-0 sweep in the Class 3A first-round, best-of-3 series at Ram Field.
Portales (16-12), which took the Friday night opener 16-6, moves on to face top-ranked Silver in a noon Thursday game at Eldorado High School. Silver swept No. 16 Wingate 11-1 and 13-0.
Sophomore Grant Wagner recovered from some early troubles to pitch a two-hit shutout, shortened by the 10-run mercy rule in the fifth inning. He struck out 10 and retired 10 of 11 batters in one stretch.
Only one runner got past second base for the Chieftains.
“His composure keeps him in, he pulls through it,” Saiz said. “We didn’t need to do much on defense because his pitching was shutting them down.”
The Rams second baseman went 2-for-2 with a walk and three RBIs, including a single to score Sanchez in the third and a two-run shot that just snuck over the fence in left-center.
“I thought I got it at least to the wall, but I was still running hard,” Saiz said. “Once I heard a cheer from the guys, I felt great.”
Portales coach Dusty Nusser liked that his players were aggressive, and said both times Sanchez went for triples it was the baserunner’s call.
“We really leave that up to them,” Nusser said. “There’s no reason to have a middle man. The second time he went for it, I was trying to hold him.”
Wagner also helped on offense. Even though he went 0-of-3 officially, he reached twice on Shiprock errors, scored a pair of runs and sacrificed the eventual game-winning run to third base by laying down a fifth-inning bunt. Four pitches later, Omar Legarda ended it with a single to center to score Jacob Salgado, who went 1-for-3 with two runs and two walks.
Only starting pitcher Abraham Hobson reached base more than once for the Chieftains, who conclude their season at 20-6.
Alfred Baer, in his first season at the Shiprock helm after years as an assistant, thought the series was a winnable matchup, but the difference came down to Shiprock making young mistakes that Portales didn’t make, like leaving baserunners on and errors that extended Portales innings.
“We’re losing one senior this year, and next year we’ll lose two seniors,” Baer said. “It’s all on the up and up. Anything after the regular season for us was really a plus.”