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Monday, December 22, 2014

Baseball: Walker’s nine inning pitch claims Bulldog sweep

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By Rachel Toraño-Mark / New Mexico Daily Lobo

Lobo pitching coach Dan Spencer talks to starting pitcher Josh Walker and catcher Alex Real. Sunday’s win is the 24th of Walker’s career and ties him for second all-time at UNM. Real, who went 3-4 on the day, broke the tie with a single in the fifth inning.

sports@dailylobo.com
@ThomasRomeroS

Big league.

That’s how head coach Ray Birmingham described starting pitcher Josh Walker’s dominant performance in New Mexico’s 4-1 victory over Fresno State on Sunday at Lobo Field.

Walker (5-2) pitched nine innings, giving up one earned run on four hits with four strikeouts. The win is the 24th of Walker’s career, which ties him for second all-time at UNM, and moves his career winning percentage up to .800 — the best in program history.

“I asked him to get locked in because our other starters weren’t locked in and weren’t performing very well,” Birmingham said. “For us to win this conference we have to have stellar performances from our starters. We’re not always going to outhit people… That performance today was big league.”

With the victory, the Lobos (27-11, 11-4 Mountain West) earn the season sweep over the Bulldogs. UNM defeated Fresno State 5-4 on Friday and 11-6 on Saturday.

“It’s a pretty big thing,” second baseman Sam Haggerty said. “We just have to continue going against other teams as well. We have Fresno State’s number this year.”

The Lobos started scoring with an RBI single by catcher Alex Real for a 1-0 in the third inning.

Fresno State responded in the fourth with a home run by right fielder Jordan Luplow.

Walker found himself in a jam later in the inning after giving up two singles, but got out of it after striking out third baseman Manny Argomaniz to end the inning.

The Bulldogs (18-18, 7-11 MW) didn’t record another hit after the fourth.

“Walker looked great today. He pounded the zone with his fastball and his slider,” Haggerty said. “I think he only walked one guy. That’s what we need on Sundays. They’re hard games to win and he did a great job.”

Real, who went 3-4 on the day, broke the tie with another one-run single in the fifth frame.

In the bottom of the sixth inning, the Lobos added the final two runs of the game. Center fielder Aaron Siple hit an RBI double and Haggerty brought home Siple with a single.

UNM has now won five straight games and eight of its last nine games.

“I feel like we’re really starting to click at this point of the season,” Haggerty said. “We’re starting to take off and just got to keep going in the right direction.”

Bulldog starting pitcher Tim Borst gave up two earned runs on seven hits in five innings of work.

Fresno’s relief pitcher Garrett Mundell allowed UNM’s other two runs on two hits in just 1/3 of an inning. Pitcher Jimmy Lambert finished the game for Fresno State, pitching 2 1/3 hitless innings.

UNM recorded 10 hits during the course of the game, half of which were for extra bases.

“I feel really good. This was probably a rebuilding year and we’re in first place,” Birmingham said. “Guys have made adjustments and they keep working at it. We still have some other guys to fix because we’re going to need everybody.”

Collier leaves game early

Left fielder and leadoff hitter Danny Collier suffered an apparent hamstring injury after hitting a double in the third inning.

Collier left the game and was replaced by outfielder Kirby McGuire.