Payton, French pair up to pace the Longhorns

David Leffler

Entering 2013, there were plenty of reasons for the Longhorn baseball team to wipe the slate clean and start over after last year’s disappointing season. Two Texas players have instead used last year as a launching pad to early success this year. Junior right fielder Mark Payton and sophomore pitcher Parker French,  have picked up right where they left off after they excelled in last year’s Big 12 conference play down the stretch. Leading the team in hitting and pitching, respectively, Payton and French have steered Texas to a much-needed 6-1 record. Although the team has yet to play an opponent that nears its level of talent, it was imperative that the Longhorns execute a strong start after 2012’s disappointing end. Fortunately for Texas fans and thanks in large part to Payton and French, that is exactly what they have done. With a three-game series this weekend against No. 11 Stanford, a team that swept the Longhorns in convincing fashion last year, Texas will need this budding duo to show up big at the plate and on the mound. And if the statistics from this season are any indicator, they will.

14: The number of games it took last year’s team to reach six wins, a season in which the Longhorns failed to win the Big 12 for only the second time in seven years. Behind Payton and French, Texas is currently 6-1 and in the midst of a five-game winning streak. However, this week’s series at Stanford will be a huge test, as the Longhorns have yet to face a ranked opponent. 

10: The number of RBIs Payton has this year through seven games, giving him by far the most on the team.  Although he is unlikely to maintain this torrid pace, he should bypass his numbers from last season easily, when he had 29 RBIs in 52 total games, including 16 in 24 conference games. At this point, no other Longhorn has knocked in more than three runs this year. 

8: The number of games played last year by the Longhorns before French recorded his first win, a 2-0 victory against Houston Baptist. Through seven games this year, French has already won twice at UFCU Disch-Falk Field.  After a strong Big 12 season, in which he went 4-1 in conference play, French was named this year’s opening-day starter and has not looked back. 

1.35: French’s ERA after his second victory of the season, an 8-2 win over Nebraska on Friday night. Through 13 1/3 pitched this year, French has surrendered only two runs, improving from his performance against Big 12 opponents as a freshman, when he posted a 2.54 ERA in eight appearances.

.500: Payton’s batting average through seven games, thanks to another impressive weekend series that has him at 12 hits in 24 at-bats. This offensive outburst appears to be an encore for last year’s Big 12 conference play, when he hit .343 in 24 games.