Paced by two home runs from first baseman Ivan Melendez, the No. 1 Texas Longhorns blasted the Rice Owls on Sunday at UFCU Disch-Falk Field in a 14-2 victory to complete a three-game sweep to open the 2022 season.
Melendez was 2-for-4 with two home runs, two walks, four runs, and six RBI to lead the way for the Longhorns. After a line-drive home run to left field by shortstop Trey Faltine to give Texas a 3-1 lead in the fourth inning, Melendez came to the plate with two on and one out.
On a 1-2 hanging breaking ball, Melendez cleared the high wall in center field on a prodigious blast of more than 450 feet, becoming just the second Texas player to hit two home runs over the batter’s eye.
In the sixth inning, Melendez came to the plate once again with two runners on and smashed another hanging breaking ball well out of Disch-Falk Field for a 13-1 lead.
Texas had 13 hits and drew 13 walks in the game, once again putting consistent pressure on the Rice pitching staff, which was forced to use seven pitchers. In addition to Melendez, four other Longhorns hitters had two hits — center fielder Douglas Hodo III, left fielder Eric Kennedy, who also walked three times and scored four runs, third baseman Skyler Messinger, and designated hitter Dylan Campbell.
As expected, right-hander Tanner Witt struggled to keep his pitch count down, throwing 87 pitches in five innings, allowing five hits, including a solo home run, walking two, and striking out five. Getting deep in games will likely be a work in progress for the hard-throwing sophomore, but the efficiency of Friday starter Pete Hansen and Saturday starter Tristan Stevens should help protect the bullpen.
On Sunday, the Horns were able to get work for four relievers, three of whom made their Texas debuts.
Freshman left-hander Luke Harrison only needed 11 pitches to get through an inning of work, redshirt junior right-hander Daniel Blair, a Winthrop transfer, also pitched a scoreless inning, right-hander Lebarron Johnson Jr. gave up a run and struggled some with his control, and right-hander Aaron Nixon, the Texas closer, also had an inning of work.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, Texas will be in Corpus Christi for a two-game midweek series against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.