One chapter of UNLV senior Braden Walker’s baseball career came to a close Sunday afternoon. It was not the perfect ending he imagined.
In his final home game, Walker’s feelings were sentimental.
“To know every time I go out there, it’s the last time I get to run out in the third inning, and the last time I get to run out in the fourth inning … all that stuff was running through my head,” he said.
“It was definitely emotional. I loved playing here. This field has been a big part of my life. I spend a lot of time on it, probably more here than I do at my own house.”
Walker went 2-for-4 with an RBI single. He made one error at third base, bobbling a groundball in the ninth inning. He regretted not making that last play.
“We didn’t get the win, which makes it even tougher,” Walker said after the Rebels’ 15-10 loss to New Mexico at Wilson Stadium.
UNLV coach Buddy Gouldsmith addressed his team in right field, and after the huddle broke, Walker headed for the stands. He hugged and kissed his fiancée, Ryanne Davis.
After about 2 1/2 years together, Walker and Davis plan to be married in late June. He’s looking ahead to the next chapter of his life.
“I’m really excited,” he said. “I’m ready to move on and grow up a little bit.”
Walker, from Pleasant Grove, Utah, is on schedule to graduate in August.
A university studies major, specializing in counseling and physical education, Walker has earned Academic All-Mountain West Conference honors the past three years.
“I’m kind of looking forward to getting on with a career,” he said. “I want to teach and coach high school baseball. I like working with that age group of kids, and I want to pass down what I’ve learned.”
On the field, Walker has been dependable and versatile, an invaluable player to Gouldsmith. Walker has played in 184 career games, with 161 starts at shortstop, third base and catcher. He’s hitting .314 this season and is second on the team with five home runs.
As a freshman in 2005, when the Rebels won the Mountain West championship, Walker learned how to catch.
Walker was a first team all-state shortstop in high school in Utah. But Gouldsmith needed a catcher, and he asked Walker to switch positions.
“He said, ‘Coach, where do I pick up my gear?’ ” Gouldsmith said. “Braden gives you everything he’s got every day.”
UNLV (20-32, 8-13 MWC) has lost 12 of its past 14 games and is headed for its third consecutive losing season. The Rebels have four road games remaining before the conference tournament at Fort Worth, Texas from May 20 to 24.
On Sunday, Gouldsmith had only two seniors to honor — Walker and relief pitcher Adam Moser from Canada. At the end of another long day, Walker left Wilson Stadium with few regrets.
“A lot of times, we just couldn’t get anything to go our way,” Walker said. “But it’s been great playing for Coach Bud.”
Contact reporter Matt Youmans at email@example.com or 702-387-2907.NEW MEXICO — 15
UNLV — 10
KEY: Four Rebels pitchers allowed 20 hits and 14 earned runs.
NEXT: Rebels at UC Riverside, 6 p.m. Tuesday