Coaches at both the high school and college levels have seen it in Eric Walker’s eyes.
They don’t change in pressure situations. Maybe that’s why, despite a slim frame (6-foot, 172 pounds) and a high-80s fastball, he’s been dropped right into No. 3 LSU’s starting rotation as a freshman.
Well, that and the quality of his other two pitches, a befuddling changeup and an off-the-table curve that propelled him to a 21-3 record, an ERA just north of 1.00 and 208 strikeouts over his final two seasons at Arlington Martin.
Walker is scheduled to make his first start for LSU on Sunday against Air Force, after the Tigers got two wins in Saturday’s season-opening double-header against Army.
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“First, he’s a consummate strike-thrower,” LSU baseball coach Paul Mainieri said. “Great command; works both sides of the plate; secondary pitches make his fastball play faster than the 88-91 he’s throwing. Then there’s the cool, poised demeanor that I attribute in large part to being a quarterback on Friday nights in a big-time Texas high school football program.”
Martin’s football team won 30 games in the three seasons Walker was QB1 and the baseball team went to the state finals in 2015. Mainieri said it takes a special freshman to get the ball as a starting pitcher his first year in the program, and Walker is working behind two others who did it in No. 1 starter Alex Lange and No. 2 guy Jared Poche.
Both earned wins for LSU in their first outings Saturday, and Poche recorded the program’s first no-hitter since 1979 in Game 2, a tough act for Walker to follow.
“I wouldn’t say I was surprised to get the chance to start,” Walker said. “It’s something everyone’s been working for. I’m not going to change my approach. Just stay within myself and stay ahead of the hitter.”
Matthew Martinez; 817-390-7760; @MCTinez817