Long Balls Back Walker as No. 13 Lobos Win 7-3
May 23, 2013
FRESNO, Calif. – Two weeks after throwing a three-hit shutout against Fresno St., Josh Walker returned to Pete Beiden Field and did his best to repeat that performance in the Mountain West Tournament.
He didn't throw a shutout, but he went 8 2/3 innings and allowed just one run over his final eight innings as the 13th-ranked Lobos (36-18) used the long ball to back his fantastic start and defeat the Nevada Wolf Pack 7-3 Thursday night.
Luke Campbell, Sam Haggerty and DJ Peterson all homered to support the junior righty out of Rio Rancho, N.M. Nevada’s 3-4-5 hitters went 6-for-11, but Walker (11-0) held the rest of the Wolf Pack lineup to just one hit in 23 at bats.
In the first the Wolf Pack struck first on a two-out, two-run home run by Hugo Hernandez. But after that, Walker allowed only a single run in the sixth as settled in.
"I felt a lot better after that first inning," he said with a little grin. "I worked hard today. I went out there, threw a lot of strikes like I always do.
"I didn't want to look back (at the first inning) and be timid. I wanted to be aggressive. We have a great team, a great offense. My main goal after the first inning was to throw strikes."
He certainly did that. He threw 78 of his 115 pitchers for strikes and was extremely efficient. In the fourth through sixth innings he threw only 22 pitches.
The Lobos didn't trail for long. Chase Harris led off the bottom of the first with an infield single. With one out he stole second and Peterson walked. Mitch Garver then smoked a double over the third-base bag to score both runners and tie the game.
UNM took its first lead in the second with two outs. Alex Allbritton led off with a walk and was on second two batters later for Haggerty. The MW Co-Freshman of the Year lasered the first pitch he saw over the fence in left for his first career home run.
"I just saw a pitch I could hit," he said. "Coach Birmingham told me to be quick to the ball and it would jump (off the bat). I got a pitch up and in and I just went for it."
It was the first of three home runs for the Lobos. The second came the very next inning off the bat of Campbell. His was also a two-run bomb and came on a full count. It extended his hitting streak to a career-long 15 games. It increased the Lobo lead to 6-2. That's where it remained until the sixth when Nevada inched closer on a run-scoring single.
Peterson increased UNM's cushion back to four with an absolute mammoth shot over the light tower in left in the bottom of the seventh. Fresno St. staff in the press box estimated it at over 500 feet.
Nevada threatened in the ninth to chase Walker. With two men on and two outs Gabe Aguilar came out of the pen and got the last out for his third save of the season.
"Nevada is a good ball club," Birmigham said. "The Mountain West has great teams. (Nevada's head coach) Gary Powers is one of the greatest coaches in college baseball history."
Campbell and Allbritton led the team with two hits apiece while Peterson scored twice to lead the team.
The win sets up a showdown with No. 2 seed UNLV Friday night with a championship game berth on the line.
"It should be a great game," Haggerty said. "It should be fun. I'm excited."
First pitch is scheduled for 8 p.m. (MT). Fans can watch a live web stream of the game free at TheMWC.com or listen to the game on ESPN Radio 101.7 The Team with Robert Portnoy, the voice of the Lobos, providing the play-by-play.
Notes: Garver’s double was the 65th of his career, sixth all-time at UNM … during Campbell’s hitting streak he has 13 multi-hit games … Peterson became only the fourth Lobo in history with 40 home runs … it was the 63rd appearance of Aguilar's career, sixth most as a Lobo ... the start for Walker was his 28th appearance of the season, and he has a win or save in 18 of them.