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.