Mark Payton’s walk-off double keys Texas baseball’s sweep of Baylor


Sam Ortega

Freshman third baseman Zane Gurwitz connected at the plate in each of three games in Texas' sweep of Baylor this weekend. After 1-for-4 finishes Friday and Saturday, Gurwitz led the team hitting Sunday with a 2-for-3 performance and one run. 

Evan Berkowitz

The No. 8 Longhorns have dominated nonconference opponents all season long, boasting a 20-4 record and outscoring opponents by 58 runs. But in-conference play has been another story. Entering the weekend series against Baylor, Texas was just 3-3 in the Big 12 and had only outscored opponents by four runs.

The season’s theme looked like it would continue Friday night as junior starting pitcher Parker French struggled. The Longhorns trailed 4-2 to Baylor (15-16, 4-8 Big 12) in the bottom of the ninth and down to their last strike against Baylor’s senior closer Josh Michalec, who had been 11-for-11 in save opportunities this year.

But the Longhorns have fought until the last out all season long. With the bases loaded and a full count, they did it again, as senior center fielder Mark Payton doubled down the third base line and into the left field corner.

Junior second baseman Brooks Marlow, who had walked to load the bases two batters earlier, never stopped, beating Michalec’s throw to send the Longhorns to a 5-4 win and steal momentum in the series.

“Somehow the game knows if you’re committed to the team and playing the game right,” head coach Augie Garrido said. “Then it rewards you. That’s what’s happening to us right now.”

Prior to the ninth, Payton went 0-for-4 in the game, putting his 69-game reached base streak in jeopardy. But the double won the game and ran his streak to an NCAA-best 70. He would reach base safely in each of the next two games to push that streak to 72.

The Longhorns (26-7, 6-3 Big 12) kept the energy rolling Saturday to claim a 6-3 win to take their second straight Big 12 series after losing their previous one. Junior pitcher Dillon Peters (4-2) went six innings, allowing two earned runs while recording a career-high nine strikeouts. Freshman relief pitcher Morgan Cooper came in for three nearly perfect innings to close things out.

Eight Longhorns recorded a hit in the game for a balanced Texas offense, including three from senior designated hitter Madison Carter, two from freshman first baseman Kacy Clemens and two from freshman catcher Tres Barrera, both doubles to keep his hot streak alive.

On Sunday, with senior Nathan Thornhill (5-0) on the mound, the Longhorns completed the sweep of Baylor with a 4-0 win. Thornhill mowed down Baylor, allowing just two hits in eight scoreless inning. The outing helped lower his Big 12-best ERA to .73.

Both pitchers silenced the hitters early on, but an RBI single from Marlow in the fifth broke the scoreless tie. Texas later added three in the seventh, sparked by Barrera’s bases-loaded double.

Texas will look to keep its five-game win streak alive Tuesday when No. 12 Rice comes to town.