Strong outing by French helps UT clip Sacramento State 6-5 in season opener

With the title of Opening Day starter placed upon him by head coach Augie Garrido, sophomore pitcher Parker French had a high standard to play up to. Not only as the team’s Friday starter, but also to his 2012 campaign in which he was named the Big 12 Freshman of the Year. French left no doubt that he was ready for 2013 by recording seven shutout innings in the Longhorns 6-5 win over Sacramento State.
“I changed up some mechanical things just to prevent injury from occurring again,” French said. “The fastball was really good tonight, and there was times when I didn’t need it at all.” French had plenty of support from his offense early. Junior right-fielder Mark Payton tied his career high of four hits. “I just stayed within myself,” Payton said. “I just tried to keep everything simple.” Payton beat out a bunt to earn his first hit and RBI of the night in the home half of the first.

“Coach told me, ‘You’re a leadoff hitter, bat that way no matter where I hit you,’” Payton said. “I saw that bunt opportunity in the first inning and I jumped right on it.”

Payton recorded his second and third RBI of the night in the third inning, driving in junior designated hitter Matt Moynihan and sophomore left fielder Taylor Stell on a single to right. Payton finished the night with four hits in five at-bats. In the second inning, freshman C.J. Hinojosa recorded his first hit as a Longhorn with a double to right field. The Horns recorded three more runs in the 3rd, two of them from the bat of Payton. Texas’ fourth run came in the 5th, when Payton scored on a passed ball. The sixth run came when Payton scored on a Hinojosa fielders’ choice. Sacramento State began its late inning rally after freshman Toller Boardman replaced French in the 8th inning. Boardman allowed four earned runs on just two hits, and was replaced by junior closer Cory Knebel. Knebel was also unable to record an out and allowed one earned run on two hits. Texas’ third pitcher of the inning was junior Ty Marlow. With the bases loaded, and nobody out, junior catcher Jacob Felts picked off David Del Grande at third base. Marlow then forced a pop-up and struck a batter out, allowing the Longhorns to get out of the inning with the lead intact. Marlow then came out in the 9th and retired the side, earning the save. French said that he has confidence his team will respond and come back strong tomorrow. “It’s gonna take all 35 to win this year,” French said. “We got hit in the mouth there at the end and guys responded well and picked each other up.” Head coach Augie Garrido was pleased with the team’s performance in the opener. “For the most part, our team was in character,” Garrido said. “We encouraged these guys to find out what your game is, and them be that. It’s when everyone is out of character that you don’t know what to do with them.” Garrido was highly complimentary of both Payton and French. “Payton did what he’s able to do,” Garrido said. “French was outstanding, that was his game.” The Horns come back tomorrow with junior Nathan Thornhill on the hill taking on Brennan Leitao at 2 p.m. at the Disch.