senior outfielder

Senior outfielder Marlee Gabaldon makes contact during a February game against Colorado State. Gabaldon has become an everyday player for the Longhorns after coming off the bench for the first three years of her career.
Photo Credit: Daulton Venglar | Daily Texan Staff

When senior outfielder Marlee Gabaldon came to Texas in 2011, she expected to walk into a big role.

Gabaldon was a standout, four-year letter-winner at Permian High School in Odessa. She won consecutive Permian Athlete of the Year awards in 2010 and 2011 and was a two-time District 3-5A Offensive Most Valuable Player.

But in her first season with the Longhorns, she saw limited action in just 21 games, primarily as a pinch hitter. She earned eight starts her sophomore year and seven as a junior.

“It was really hard at first,” Gabaldon said. “I tried not to let it be a negative thing. I realized there are a lot of roles to a team, and I needed to fill whatever one was needed.”

This season, however, Gabaldon plans on being a consistent fixture for the Longhorns.

“Something hit her this year as a senior because she’s taken hold of that starting job,” head coach Connie Clark said. “She’s got a strangle hold on it, and she’s not about to give it up, and I just love that.”

In Texas’ first game this season, Gabaldon notched a career-high three RBIs against UC-Santa Barbara. She boasted a .429 batting average during the Texas Classic tournament, and she hit a three-run double in the seventh inning to carry Texas over then-unbeaten Georgia.

Through 20 games, all of which Gabaldon has started, she boasts a .281 batting average with nine RBIs, the fourth most on the team. But her impact is about more than just statistics.

“She’s a great voice in the clubhouse,” Clark said. “She’s just one of those people that, when she’s got something to say, people listen.”

Gabaldon also sees herself as a secondary leader. As one of just two seniors on the team, she provides veteran leadership for the young group. 

“I don’t want to be that person that talks all the time, so I let everyone do their part,” Gabaldon said. “I want to be one of those players that’s not always heard but is always respected.”

 Going from a bench player to a starter hasn’t fazed Gabaldon.

“It wasn’t much of a transition,” she said. “I was always prepared to take on this role. I’ve done it my whole life.” 

Gabaldon learned to be ready to do anything her team needs during her first three seasons. She plans on using that lesson to achieve her goal of being consistent for Texas.

“I just want to be there for my team in every way,” Gabaldon said. “I want to help my team achieve their goals, which is anything that concerns a championship.”

Gabaldon hopes to continue her success this weekend as the Longhorns (13–7) compete in the Carolina Classic in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

Senior outfielder Mark Payton posed a fierce offensive threat at the plate this weekend at UFCU Disch-Faulk Field. Hitting 8-for-10 with five walks, a triple, four RBI and two runs in the series, Payton lifted the Longhorns to 2-1 against Stanford. 

Photo Credit: Jenna VonHofe | Daily Texan Staff

Hitting .800 with four RBIs, senior outfielder Mark Payton lifted the Longhorns (5-3) to two wins in their three-game weekend series against Stanford (3-4).

“I’m just keeping it simple,” Payton said after going 3-for-3 in Game 2. “I’m just going up there and looking for a pitch to hit, and, if the guy in front of me and behind me is getting on base, then I know I’ll get one to hit eventually.”

Texas fell behind Stanford early in Game 1 when the Cardinal drove in a run in the top of the first inning off of junior Parker French, but, after responding with a run of its own in the bottom, Texas never relinquished control.

The Longhorns erupted for five runs in the second inning and led the entire game, with the only Stanford threat coming in the top of the 8th. The Cardinal offense cut its deficit to 7-3, but Texas won 9-3, buoyed by Payton’s four-hit, three-RBI performance.

“[Payton] is really playing the game at a high and mature level right now,” head coach Augie Garrido said. “He is just hitting the ball where it is pitched. He is ready to hit on every pitch, and he is letting the ones outside of the zone go.”

The Longhorns started the bats early in a wild Game 2, securing a 2-0 lead after the first inning that lasted until the top of the 7th when Stanford’s two-run double tied it up. Texas took the lead back with its own 7th-inning run, but Stanford tied the game again half an inning later.

With two outs and the score tied at three in the bottom of the 9th, sophomore C.J. Hinojosa stepped to the plate with the bases loaded. Hinojosa saw three pitches, bringing the count to one ball and two strikes, before a wild pitch brought in Collin Shaw for the walk-off run.

Following dominant performances by Texas starters in the first two games — French threw six innings while giving up just four hits and one run in Game 1, while Dillon Peters gave up just two runs in seven innings pitched in Game 2 — Stanford found its groove, taking Game 3 11-5 while outhitting the Longhorns 11-7.

Texas’ only threat came in the bottom of the sixth inning when a Zane Gurwitz double and a sacrifice fly by Brooks Marlow cut the Cardinal lead to five runs.

“We played good baseball today,” Payton said. “They just got a few big hits that we didn’t.”

The most excitement came when Garrido was ejected in the third inning after arguing a balk call on reliever Travis Duke.

“I want them to know that I’m going to fight for them,” Garrido said. “We’re asking them to fight for each other and we want them to know that the coaches are going to fight for them too.”

Despite the obvious frustration of Game 3, Garrido raved about his team’s resiliency in the first two games.

“We’re responding,” Garrido said. “To get that kind of instinct going and that kind of teamwork going is really challenging, but we have got it started.”

Texas will look to re-enter the win column when it hosts UTPA on Tuesday.