Virginia Tech Baseball: Erik Payne’s Journey to Leading the Hokies to the ACC Tournament

Virginia is one of the most fertile baseball recruiting states in the country with plenty of talented players in the 757 and in the Richmond metro. The Richmond metro is loaded with baseball talent that has produced even some high MLB Draft picks from players coming straight out of high school.

However, there are always plenty of top Richmond baseball players that end up going all across the country to play college baseball. One of those players in the Class of 2010 was Erik Payne.

Payne was a star for Mills Godwin High School and earned a spot in the VHSCA All-Star Game in 2010 after hitting nearly .500 his senior season. He was recruited by schools across the country and while the Hokies were in the hunt, the third baseman and left fielder made the decision to commit to SEC powerhouse South Carolina.

Payne struggled to find playing time in his first season in Columbia, but things changed during the 2012 season. Payne appeared in 37 games and made 30 starts during the 2012 season as he looked like a future regular starter for the Gamecocks.

Then, Payne had a big moment against the Florida Gators in the College World Series with a three-run triple that helped lead the Gamecocks to victory over Florida. The Gamecocks would make it to the finals of the College World Series, but came up just short against the Arizona Wildcats.

However, it seemed like Payne had a bright future in Columbia, but that turned out to not be true.

In 2013, Erik Payne struggled to touch the field at South Carolina as he made only eight starts in 13 games for the Gamecocks. Payne decided that he needed a change of scenery for his final season of college baseball, and returned to his home state to join the Hokies.

Transferring did mean that Payne would sit out a year before playing his final season of college baseball, but the Hokies gave Payne the fresh start he needed.

This season, Payne has proven that he has what it takes to be a star for a team in one of the best conferences in the country.

Erik Payne has been put in the third and fiith spots in the order as a part of a dangerous middle-of-the-order trio with fellow seniors Alex Perez and Brendon Hayden. This senior trio of hitters has shined in 2015 despite the Hokies’ 27-26 record and ninth place finish in the ACC during the regular season.

Over the latter part of the season, Payne has emerged as the Hokies’ best hitter while playing and starting in all 53 regular season games. Payne finished his first and only regular season with the Hokies with 9 home runs, 53 RBIs, a .347 batting average, and a .449 on-base percentage. Payne also stepped up in big games and provided a lot of clutch hitting throughout the season.

In the final game of the regular season against Pittsburgh, Payne had arguably his best game of the season with two home runs and four RBIs in a 13-7 victory over the Panthers that not only clinched an ACC Tournament spot, but also gave them the nine seed. Payne had a walk-off RBI single early in the season in the tenth inning against Toledo to avoid what could have been a bad loss.

Somehow, Payne’s impressive regular season led him to getting snubbed from the All-ACC teams, which will likely be a chip on his shoulder for the rest of the Hokies’ season, however long that may be.

In 2015, Erik Payne was finally given the chance to shine that many expected him to get in 2013 with the Gamecocks, and he became part of arguably the ACC’s best 3-4-5 lineup combination with Alex Perez and Brendon Hayden.

This season likely will mean that Payne will get selected late in the 2015 MLB Draft and have the chance to work his way up the minor league ladder. However, Payne isn’t done just yet at the collegiate level and will be ready to try to lead the Hokies to an ACC Tournament title no matter how improbable it seems.


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