ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – In 2013 Josh Walker did something for only the fifth time in UNM history: he won 10 or more games in a season. Now, he is being honored like no other Lobo pitcher in the history of the program.
Walker was named a preseason third team All-American Tuesday by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association, and it is believed that he is the first Lobo pitcher to ever earn preseason All-America recognition.
“It feels really great,” said Walker, who is a native of Rio Rancho, N.M. “That’s one of the highest recognitions I can receive at this point. I want to thank my teammates and coaches for pushing me so hard.
“I want to thank my grandparents especially. My grandpa is a father figure to me. He has taught me so well and helped me become a better man. I owe it all to him.”
Walker began 2013 in the bullpen before returning to the starting rotation late in the season. He finished the year 11-1 with seven saves and a 3.66 ERA as the Lobos advanced to their fourth straight NCAA postseason. He started UNM’s opening game in the Fullerton Regional and allowed just one earned run in 7.1 innings.
“Being an All-American at the Division I level is a big deal,” UNM head coach Ray Birmingham said, “and it is very well deserved.”
UNM has only had two pitchers receive postseason All-America honors: Dean Duane in 1985 after he posted a 14-0 record and a 2.98 ERA in 105.2 innings, and Danny Ray Herrera in 2006 after he went 10-0 with 104 strikeouts and a 2.24 ERA in 128.1 innings.
“It means a lot to me,” Walker said about being the first pitcher to be named preseason All-America in program history. “I never would have imagined this. I’ve just been working so hard and trusting in my teammates and coaches and family, and it feels really amazing for all the hard work and trust to pay off.”
His ward work and trust have been paying off ever since he stepped foot on campus. Walker currently owns the all-time highest winning percentage for Lobo pitchers at .826 (19-4), and if he wins eight games in 2014 he will tie the record for most wins all-time in program history.
“I just want to go out there and play as hard as I can for the team,” he said. “I want to give us the best shot we have at winning every time I go out there. I want to enjoy my time here and really make this last year of Lobo baseball my priority. I want to leave a positive footprint on the beaches of Lobo Baseball.”
Birmingham has coached eight All-Americans during his time at New Mexico and Walker becomes the ninth.
“He joins a long list of Lobos becoming All-Americans,” Birmingham said. “He has a chance to be the winningest pitcher in lobo baseball history. He’s continuing a tradition of New Mexico boys becoming all Americans, joining Jordan Pacheco (2005), Brian Cavazos-Galvez (2009), Ryan Padilla (2012), and Mitch Garver (2012 and 2013).”
The Lobos begin their season Friday, Feb. 14 at the University of San Diego, and they have to replace a lot of talent missing from last year’s team. Gone are Garver and DJ Peterson, All-Americans and Co-Mountain West Players of the Year each of the last two seasons. Luke Campbell, who finished No. 21 in the nation in bating last season, is also gone, as is the ace of last year’s staff, Sam Wolff, and the anchors of the bullpen, Gabe Aguilar and Hobie McClain.
“We don’t care what has been said about us,” Walker said. “We’re going to learn from our mistakes and keep pushing towards our goal. And that’s winning and making it to the College World Series. We have to trust in each other every day.”
UNM’s home season begins on Friday, Feb. 21 as they host Northern Illinois and Missouri State in the Lobo Invite. Fans can get a ticket to all 31 home games this season by purchasing a Lobo Pride Pass, which are on sale now for only $50. For more information click here or call the ticket office at 925-LOBO.