July 25, 2012
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – The Lobos would not have enjoyed the success they did in 2012 without the work of their pitching staff. They hurled more innings than any UNM staff in history with 541 2/3, and they also struck out the most batters (475) in one season in school history. They posted the lowest ERA (4.40) at UNM since 1977 and helped the Lobos win a school record eight straight weekend series.
The three main weekend starters for the Lobos combined to win 24 games, and they all happened to be from the Land of Enchantment. Albuquerque-native Austin House was expected to be the workhorse and was, pitching a team-high 111 2/3 innings. Gera Sanchez, from Las Cruces, N.M., was expected to be the team’s closer, but he moved into the starting rotation about halfway through the season and was dominant. That wasn’t completely unexpected, though, because Sanchez began the 2011 season in UNM’s rotation before moving to the role of closer and becoming the Lobos’ all-time saves leader.
The third pitcher also joined the rotation about halfway through the season, and his performance was a bit of a revelation.
Josh Walker, a native of Rio Rancho, N.M., made eight appearances, seven in relief, before joining the starting rotation for good on March 30 at Fresno State. His numbers to that point were decent, but not spectacular: a 1-2 record, one save, a 4.43 ERA, 20 strikeouts, and three walks in 21 1/3 innings.
He was great the rest of the way, and downright outstanding at times. All he did was throw a complete game in his first start, strike out 10 in his second, and then proceeded to win his first five starts. During that time he threw 35 innings with a 3.86 ERA. He struck out 31 and walked only six to improve his record to 6-2.
In his last start of the regular season he allowed only one run in seven innings and gave the Lobos a chance to clinch a share of the regular-season crown on the last day of the season.
In the Mountain West Tournament championship game he again allowed only one earned run in seven innings as the Lobos won their second straight conference tournament championship.
He finished the season tied with House and Sanchez for the team lead with eight wins. He struck out 66 and pitched 81 2/3 innings, the second-most on the team. He also walked only 14 batters all season, which averaged out to only 1.5 per nine innings of work, a fantastic number.
In 2013 the Lobos will look to lean on Walker even more because House was drafted by the Oakland A’s and Sanchez signed a free agent contract with the Houston Astros. If his 2012 season in any indication, Walker will be more than up to the challenge.