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Lobo baseball team finishes four-game sweep of UNC

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New Mexico’s Chase Harris slides safely back to first as Northern Colorado’s Nick Miller bobbles the throw on Sunday. (Greg Sorber/Journal)

New Mexico’s Chase Harris slides safely back to first as Northern Colorado’s Nick Miller bobbles the throw on Sunday. (Greg Sorber/Journal)

Josh Walker pitched like a man with a bus to catch.

Or more accurately, the UNM right-hander pitched like a man whose opponent had a bus to catch.

Walker worked eight excellent innings at Lobo Field on Sunday to help his team complete a doubleheader sweep of Northern Colorado. Walker allowed one run on six hits with three strikeouts and no walks as UNM won the second game 8-1.

The Lobos (8-3-1) won the first game 12-3 and swept their final four-game series before Mountain West play begins. New Mexico hosts UNLV for three games beginning Friday.

“I don’t know if we’re ready for conference,” Lobo coach Ray Birmingham said, “but we’re farther along after this series. We’ve got guys coming along with the bats and I’m really happy with our pitching.”

Walker was in command throughout Sunday’s second game but a bit of statistical suspense remained.

First, the senior had pitched a shutout against Missouri State in his previous start. He extended his personal scoreless streak to 162/3 innings before Northern Colorado scratched out a run in the eighth inning Sunday.

Second, could the fast-working Walker get UNM through nine innings before the Bears had to catch a bus back to Greeley. After Sunday’s first game required 3:02 to finish, the nightcap started with a time limit of 2:45 that would allow UNC to make it home on schedule.

New Mexico outfielders Kirby McGuire, left, Chase Harris (12) and Aaron Siple celebrate the team’s 12-3 win against Northern Colorado in the first game of Sunday’s doubleheader. (Greg Sorber/Journal)

New Mexico outfielders Kirby McGuire, left, Chase Harris (12) and Aaron Siple celebrate the team’s 12-3 win against Northern Colorado in the first game of Sunday’s doubleheader. (Greg Sorber/Journal)

New Mexico faced a similar dilemma a week earlier when its second of two Sunday games was called a tie because visiting Northern Illinois had to head to the airport.

Thanks in large part to Walker, the Lobos finished Sunday with time to spare. Game two took just 2:04.

“It’s great playing behind him,” UNM shortstop Jared Holley said. “He works really fast and he even has a perfect walk-up song (“Whip It” by Devo). He kind of whips the ball in there.”

Pitching stole the show for UNM over the weekend as Northern Colorado (2-10) managed just seven runs in the four games. But Lobo hitters began to find their stride, too.

Holley, Alex Real, John Pustay and Chase Harris had four hits apiece in Sunday’s doubleheader as the Lobos racked up 28 hits overall. Holley had a particularly good day, going 4 for 7 with four RBIs.

The Lobos’ nine-hole hitter also was robbed of extra bases when a game-two blast to left died in a stiff wind and was caught on the warning track.

“I’m not too worried about that,” he said with a smile. “I’ll get (a home run) some day. My whole focus is defense anyway. With the pitching we’ve got, we only need a couple runs to win.”

It took the Lobos a while to get the bats warmed up in Sunday’s first game, but a two-run double by freshman Danny Collier staked starting pitcher Colton Thomson to an early lead. Thomson allowed just one run in 51/3 innings and left with a 6-1 advantage.

The Bears struck for two runs in the seventh to make it 6-3, but the Lobos racked up six runs in the eighth to put the lengthy game away.

In game two Real singled in two runs in the bottom of the third to provide all the offense Walker would need. Real later doubled and scored and added an RBI ground out as UNM built a comfortable lead.

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