The No. 7 Texas Longhorns defeated the visiting Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks 13-2 Tuesday night at UFCU Disch-Falk Field as the Longhorns exploded for six runs in the third inning and were never threatened after the first third of the game.
The Longhorns got stellar performances from most everyone who touched a bat for them today, as the 17 team hits represented a tie for the team’s high mark this season at the Disch.
Most impressive among the Texas batters was a familiar name in first baseman Ivan Mendelez. In what’s becoming one of the most impressive hitting seasons we’ve seen from a Longhorn, Mendelez went 3-for-4 with two home runs and five RBI in the game.
Starting a second base for the first time this season, Jack O’Dowd went 3-for-5 and added his first home run and RBIs (four) of the season and third baseman Skyler Messinger was the final Texas player with multiple RBI in the game, finishing with a 2-for-2 line with a matching two RBI.
The aforementioned Melendez kicked off the scoring in the bottom of the first inning with a towering shot to straight away center over the batter’s eye in center field.
The moonshot from Melendez was nothing short of an astonishing act of strength. Twitter’s own Kyle Umlang highlighted just how rare a homer over the “Monster” in center field has been.
Since the opening of Disch-Falk Field in 1975, only 38 players have cleared the 20-foot high “Monster” in straightaway centerfield, 400 feet from home plate.— Kyle Umlang (@kyleumlang) April 13, 2022
This is the 4th time since 2010 that it has been cleared. 3 of those have been Ivan Melendez!!!#ThisIsTexas #HookEm
The run the Longhorns got in the first was matched in the top of the third inning by the Lumberjacks. After a leadoff walk was issued by Texas right-hander Zane Morehouse on in relief of starter Andre Duplantier, an errant pickoff attempt and a wild pitch allowed the lead runner to score from second base and tie up the ballgame.
However, the Longhorns didn’t have to wait long to get back on top.
Following a walk by center fielder Douglas Hodo III, Melendez roped a one-hop double to the center-field wall to get Texas back in front, 2-1.
A few batters later, designated hitter Austin Todd followed the RBI double with one of his own, taking a 2-2 count fastball deep to left center to score Melendez from third, inching the lead up to 3-1, Texas. The next batter up, Messinger, broke the game open with a two-run single.
A walk issued to shortstop Trey Faltine put another Texas runner on base, prompting a pitching change for the Jacks. After a wild pitch moved both runners into scoring position, O’Dowd notched his first two career RBI in burnt orange and white, plating both Messinger and Faltine on a single through the right side.
SFA was finally able to escape the 30-minute plus long inning after getting a Melendez pop-out to center field, but by that point the damage was done. The Jacks added their second and final run of the game in the top of the fifth inning, but like in the third the scoring just preceded disaster with Texas following up in their half of the inning by adding three runs to the score.
A one-out walk issued to left fielder Ace Whitehead, who replaced Dylan Campbell, and a single off the bat of Hodo set the table for Melendez once again. And Melendez, who entered the game just one home run shy of tying the NCAA lead this season, blasted his second of the game to give him 16 on the season, the NCAA lead in homers, and a 10-2 lead.
Texas added one more run in the bottom of the sixth inning, courtesy of Whitehead RBI double to left center field — his first RBI as a Longhorn.
The final two runs of the game came in the bottom of the eight inning off O’Dowd’s bat, capping a career game in dramatic fashion —-after Faltine reached base after getting hit by a pitch, O’Dowd smashed his first career home run, barely clearing the wall in left center for the final margin.
To go with the exclamation point from the Texas batters, the pitching, and especially the the bullpen were impressive, holding SFA to two runs and seven hits over nine innings of work. While the Lumberjacks aren’t exactly the scariest of opponents from a pitching standpoint, the Longhorn hurlers were hard to hit on Tuesday night, allowing just one extra-base hit (a double) in the game, while also striking out eight and allowing four walks.
Despite all this action and drama, the main story line is Melendez. The Hispanic Titanic had yet another great day in the batter’s box, and only improved his already impressive stat line in a season that’s quickly become a serious contender for Player of the Year consideration. His two home runs not only gave him the NCAA lead with sixteen at the time of this writing, but also puts him into striking distance for the school’s all-time single-season record.
*List below is rankings before game vs SFA was played
Texas will now take their 25-10 record into Manhattan, Kansas, where a weekend road series against Kansas State awaits them starting on Thursday ahead of the holiday weekend with the games available on ESPN+.