Ryan Sanchez is settling into his comfort zone.
The Merced College freshman has enjoyed some early successes mixed in with a rough outing here or there.
He showed Thursday afternoon that the latter might be far less frequent, turning in his best collegiate showing to date. Sanchez allowed just one earned run on five hits while setting career highs in innings (eight complete) and strikeouts (six). The MC offense did the rest, avenging Tuesday’s first Central Valley Conference loss with a 10-2 victory over College of the Sequoias at Blue Devil Field.
It was the Atwater grad’s third quality start in his last four efforts and improved his record to 3-2 on the season.
“I’m definitely feeling much more confident out there,” Sanchez said. “Everything was working today, and knowing that my defense is out there playing well behind me lets me go out and just worry about hitting my spots.
“The biggest thing I learned from those first three starts is as soon as it’s done, you’re on to the next one. Good or bad, that’s where your focus needs to go, and I think that mentality has helped me.”
Sanchez was certainly good on Thursday, retiring the first six batters he faced in order and stranding a leadoff double to open the third.
Sequoias (6-6, 1-1 CVC) tested his composure for the first time in the fourth inning, with another leadoff double serving as the catalyst.
Giants catcher Dillon Kelley followed that up with a single to center. Joseph Salmeri made a strong throw home on the play, and COS opted to hold the runner at third. The ball kicked off of catcher Darren Trainor’s glove, bouncing up the first-base line. He had trouble finding it, allowing the run to score and Kelley to move up to third on the play.
It trimmed the Blue Devils’ lead to 4-1 and left COS looking for more with the heart of its order coming up. Sanchez halted the rally there, recording back-to-back strikeouts and getting a groundout to first to end the inning.
“Those were big momentum swings,” MC coach Chris Pedretti said. “Stranding that double in the third and then only allowing the one run when we kicked it around a little bit in the fourth prevented them from ever really getting some momentum going.
“I also really liked how every time they scored, we immediately answered.”
MC (9-6, 4-1 CVC) not only answered each time, but bettered what COS had done in its half-inning.
A Curtis Kellogg safety squeeze and a Trainor two-out, run-scoring single in the bottom of the fourth gave the Devils a 6-1 lead.
Merced bettered that effort after the Giants pushed across their only earned run against Sanchez in the top of the eighth by hitting through the order in the bottom half.
Kellogg (2 for 4, 4 RBIs) doubled in a pair of runs, Trainor (2 for 4, 2 RBIs) added another RBI single, and David Vidauri capped the rally with a sacrifice fly to take a commanding 10-2 lead.
“We came into the game wanting to blow them out and almost did it,” said third baseman Jimbo Pernetti, who was 2 for 4 with a double and two RBI. “Tuesday we hit a number of balls hard early, but just seemed to be right at them. We figured as long as we keep hitting balls hard, good things would happen, and they did.”
Sun-Star staff writer Sean Lynch can be reached at (209) 385-2476 or firstname.lastname@example.org.