Mark Payton made it on base at least once during each of Texas’ first 33 games. Although that streak has ended, his consistency and good timing brought the Longhorns back in the game on Tuesday night when they were down 2-1 to Prairie View A&M.
The Panthers got the edge in the fourth inning. But their lead wouldn’t last for long.
Payton’s base hit in the fifth inning began a rally that was necessary to give the Longhorns the lead that they never gave up.
“Mark Payton is a ballplayer,” said head coach Augie Garrido. “He is day in day out a really hard nosed quality baseball player. That’s what sets him apart from the others. The others can have really good days. Every day is a good day for him because of the attitude that he has and the work ethic that he has.”
Garrido said because of Payton’s small size, standing 5-foot-8, he has stepped up and become an even better baseball player.
Payton went 3-for-5 and scored two runs against the Panthers. Although Prairie View A&M lost, they put up a strong fight against the Longhorns, who were still surging from the ninth inning victory over A&M on Sunday.
“Mark is an excellent leadoff guy,” Weiss said. “He’s got that spot down. Last year, I think he was two hole sometimes, second batter. He’s developed into a leadoff hitter.”
Weiss said Payton is good at dragging on the count and making the pitcher throw to him a lot.
But, Payton doesn’t take all the credit.
“It’s nice when you have Erich and Walsh hitting behind you because you’re going to get pitches to hit,” Payton said. “They don’t want to walk you. It’s nice when those two are hitting.”
Payton knows that his job is to get on base. This season, he certainly has. He is currently batting .329. That is second highest on the team, only trailing Weiss who is hitting .343.
Last year, he was consistent and made the All-Big 12 freshman team. This year, he is continuing to step up when the team needs him.
“My game has got to be to get on base no matter how it is,” Payton said. “I try not to worry about the statistics at all. My job is to get on base and make plays on the field and put together quality at bats. That’s the only thing I’ve been worried about.”
Payton’s hit in the fifth inning jump-started the Longhorns and led them to the win.
The players and Garrido emphasize “total offense.”
“It’s not focusing on getting a hit but focusing on getting the leadoff man on base,” Walsh said. “We want him to get over and then let the next guy do his job.”
Walsh said hits seem to be contagious sometimes.
“Anytime you get more than one run in an inning is great, especially for your pitching cause that takes a lot of pressure off of them,” Weiss said. “Even hitting, too, because you think that you’re more relaxed up there and take a better at bat.”
Payton’s consistency this season and tonight will continue to get the Longhorns on the scoreboard. With Marlow, Weiss and Walsh behind him in the batting order, Payton will continue to put runs on the board.