May 18, 2012
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - The University of New Mexico Lobos (32-22) continue to put pressure on conference-leading TCU with a 9-1 victory over Air Force (14-38) in front of 1,542 fans at Isotopes Park on Friday.
As much as Thursday's game, a 22-4 victory for the Lobos, was about hitting, this game was just as much about pitching and defense for the Lobos. Rio Rancho native and sophomore Josh Walker pitched seven strong innings for Lobos, striking out three while allowing three hits and one earned run. Walker improved his record to 7-2, which is tied for the team lead.
"Air Force is always going to be scrappy," Walker said. "We came in here after a high-scoring game yesterday and just tried to stay focused and get it done."
"The pitching is finally here," Walker said.
Air Force struck early, taking a 1-0 first-inning lead thanks to a leadoff double and two groundouts. After that, however, they were limited to four hits the rest of the way.
"Josh has to be punched in the nose to step it up," UNM head coach Ray Birmingham said. "The first guy doubles and then he steps it up.
"But he stepped it up. He pitched well."
UNM added another run in the sixth when Peterson knocked home Garver with a single up the middle. Peterson did more damage to the Falcons in the seventh when he hit a two-out, two-RBI double to left-center field. Peterson finished 3-for-4 with three RBIs, a run scored, and a walk.
"We're flat out hitting," he said. "We threw out almost 20 hits today and that about sums it up."
The win was the fifth straight for UNM, which ties a season high for the team. It also guarantees that the Lobos will finish with their fewest conference losses since 1979--that Lobo squad finish 11-5 in league play.
It also keeps the Lobos in the running for the Mountain West regular-season championship. They need some help from San Diego State, however. The Aztecs are playing TCU this weekend, and the Lobos need the Horned Frogs to drop at least one game to claim a share of the title.
"We've got to win one more," Birmingham said. "And the scoreboard says 0-0 right now, so they can't let up. Air Force won't lie down. They get after you every game."
"We need to ride this momentum," Walker said. "We're looking good. We just have to keep playing hard and limit our mistakes. We need to keep doing the little things right."
The Lobos close out the regular season Saturday at noon (MT) on Senior Day at Isotopes Park. Fittingly, senior Gera Sanchez will get the start in search of his team-leading eighth win and a sweep for UNM.