Payton runs streak of consecutive games reaching base to 29

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Mark Payton runs the bases in a recent game for Texas. Payton is second on the team with 53 total bases and six doubles in 29 games.

Photo Credit: Rebecca Howeth | Daily Texan Staff

A team’s leadoff batter has one crucial objective —­ get on base.

That’s why it’s no wonder that sophomore right fielder Mark Payton, who has reached base in each of the Longhorns’ 26 games this season, has become a mainstay at the top of the Texas lineup. A .263 hitter a year ago, Payton has visibly improved since his freshman campaign, raising his batting average to .304 and taking his on-base percentage from .353 in 2011 to .401 this season. Payton has proved to be an asset in the field. Payton has a perfect fielding percentage, notching 49 putouts without making an error.

“As a leadoff batter, my job is to get on base,” Payton said. “I’m very fortunate to have that going for me right now, but it can change at any moment, so I have to keep the same mentality and hopefully keep it rolling.”

Trio of youngsters settling as new members of weekend rotation

Last year, Nathan Thornhill was a freshman, and was used mostly in middle relief situations, but now he’s the top dog in Texas’ starting rotation. Thornhill, a sophomore who leads the Longhorns with 52 innings pitched has solidified himself as the team’s ace and has picked up victories in each of his last two starts. Wins over Cal and Texas Tech brought Thornhill’s record to 4-2 on the season and his ERA to 3.81, as the Cedar Park product has struck out more than three times as many batters as he’s walked.

Unlike Thornhill, the other two starters — freshmen Parker French and Ricky Jacquez — did not begin the season as starters. After putting in several impressive relief outings, French and Jacquez have earned spots in Texas’ rotation, starting the final two games in each of the Longhorns’ last four weekend series.

Errors on the rise in 2012 compared to 2011

Texas has taken a step backwards defensively this year.

The Longhorns currently hold a .966 fielding percentage, good for 106th in the NCAA and 5th in the Big 12. They have committed 39 errors in 29 games (1.34 errors per game), compared to 47 errors in 68 games last season (0.69 errors per game). Despite a struggling defense, Texas has won 12 of its last 16 games and is tied with Texas A&M for 2nd place in the Big 12 standings at 7-2, behind only Baylor, who has triumphed in each of its 12 conference games.

Printed on Monday, April 9, 2012 as: Payton getting on base from leadoff spot