Texas Longhorns Baseball: 2022 College World Series

Texas Longhorns Baseball:  2022 College World Series

Texas and Notre Dame play at 6:00 p.m. Friday night at Charles Schwab Field in Omaha, and the game will be on ESPN.  Texas will send All-American Pete Hansen to the mound.  Hook Em, and let’s beat the Irish!

Back Home in Omaha

The Texas Longhorns baseball team has arrived in Omaha to play in their 38th College World Series.  That’s a record.  The second-place team, Miami (Florida), has been there 23 times. This is the 75th College World Series, and the Texas Longhorns have been in half of them.  We often talk about the Bluebloods in the various collegiate sports, and at least in the three major men’s sports, it’s hard to find a lot of comparisons to Texas Baseball.

Texas has won 6 National Championships, second to Southern Cal who has 12.  The Horns are tied with Louisiana State, and Arizona State is third with 5.  The other great baseball programs with four each are Arizona, Cal State Fullerton (3 under Augie Garrido), and Miami (FL).  Texas has been the College World Series Runner-up six times, and are second in finals appearances with 12.

Pretty good article from the NCAA:

Here are the programs with the most Men’s College World Series titles | NCAA.com

The 2022 CWS Bracket

This Texas team fought its way to Omaha, and they get to play for the national championship in a most extraordinary bracket.  For those who don’t follow baseball closely, the CWS is played by eight teams, four in each bracket with double elimination. The winner of each bracket advances to a best two out of three championship series for the title.  I find it amazing and exciting that the Texas bracket includes three of our four greatest sports rivals: the Land Thieves from Oklahoma, Texas Agricultural and Mechanical, and Notre Dame. And the other side of the bracket includes Arkansas, who for many decades was among our most bitter rivals (I count them in my top 3 of most hated rivals).  The rest of the other side of the bracket includes the Cardinal of Leland Stanford Junior University, the Ole Miss Rebels, and the Auburn Tigers.

Texas opens Friday night with the Fighting Irish, 6:00 p.m. on ESPN.  Game 1 of the CWS is earlier this afternoon, featuring the Land Thieves and those Fightin’ Texas Aggies (1:00 p.m. on ESPN).  The losers today will play the first game on Sunday, 1:00 p.m. on ESPN, and today’s winners play Sunday night at 6:00 p.m. (ESPN2).  I am looking forward to spending Father’s Day evening watching Texas baseball.

There are several sports books with odds out, and in most of them Texas is either favored, or even with or right behind Stanford.  Most have Notre Dame or Arkansas next.  What really surprises me is that most books have the Aggies with the longest odds; don’t underestimate this Texas Agricultural and Mechanical team.  They don’t have a lot of CWS experience, but Schlossnagle does and this is probably the best team from College Station I have seen.

I do believe this Texas Longhorns baseball team has the talent and the mental game to win the national championship, and I am pleasantly surprised with the odds.  For example, Stanford comes in as an incredibly hot team, 22-2 since May 1.

Texas Agricultural and Mechanical is 24-6 since April 9 (42-18 overall).  As you may know, I am not one to go to great lengths to compliment the Aggies, but hat tip to Schlossnagle for an outstanding first season in Aggieland.  Texas Agricultural and Mechanical finished first in the SEC West, made it to the semifinals of the SEC tournament, and then swept the College Station Regional (which included Oral Roberts, Louisiana (Lafayette), and Texas Christian.  They beat Louisville in 2 games in their Super Regional (in CS).

The Land Thieves from Norman were the hottest team in the Big 12 at the end of the season, winning their last five conference series (Kansas, K State, Texas Christian, West Virginia, and at Texas Tech), and winning the Big 12 Tournament, beating Texas in the championship game 8 to 1.  They went on the road to Gainesville for their Regional, winning that by taking 2 out of 3 from Florida, then going to Blacksburg to play the No. 4 National Seed Virginia Tech Hokies, and winning that Super Regional to get to Omaha.  Skip Johnson (still loved by many Texas fans and by his former players) has done a great job with OU.  Land Thieves arrive in Omaha with a 42-22 overall record.

Notre Dame went on the road to Statesboro, Georgia, home of the No. 16 seed Georgia Southern Eagles, and the Irish won that regional (which included Texas Technical), earning Notre Dame the right to go to Knoxville to play the No. 1 national seed Tennessee Volunteers.  The Vols, who were ranked number one in the polls for much of the season, were odds on favorites to win it all.  Notre Dame forced a game 3 and beat Tennessee.  The Fighting Irish are 40-15 overall.

Of note on the other side of the bracket, the Ole Miss Rebels were the very last team picked to be in the tournament, the 64th seed. They went on the road to play in the Coral Gables Regional, a regional that included Arizona and Canisius in addition to host Miami (FL).  Then the Rebs went to Hattiesburg to play a very good Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles team, and Ole Miss won that Super Regional to advance to Omaha.

This is a fascinating field in Omaha, and a College World Series that should provide some great baseball games for what accurately bills itself as the “Greatest Show on Dirt”.

2022 Texas Longhorns Baseball Team & Season

The college baseball press was filled in the preseason with stories and analysis on the best teams in the country, and the Texas Longhorns were regularly cited as one of the best.  When the season started in February, the Longhorns were ranked number one in every major poll.  To a large degree, the accolades and expectations for this Texas team were based upon our pitching staff.  Our Friday night starter from last season, Ty Madden had moved onto the major leagues, but we had Peter Hansen coming back off of a 9-1 record in 2021 (1.88 ERA) to be our Friday night starter, we had Tristan Stevens coming into 2022 with a 11-3 record and 3.31 ERA in 2021 (First Team All Big-12) as our Saturday starter, and the man who was slated to be our Sunday starter, Tanner Witt, is a fantastic pitcher and likely being groomed to be the 2023 Friday night starter.  We also had Aaron Nixon coming back who was projected to be one of the best closers in the nation, and a slew of other excellent arms.

Tanner Witt was scratched from his third start, and we soon learned that he was scheduled for Tommy John surgery.  Tristan Stevens had a bit of a slump, which began with a bad trip to Lubbock (aren’t they all?).  And he would not regain his starting form during the regular season. Aaron Nixon could not find his groove either.  I am very grateful for the emergence of Lucas Gordon as our Sunday starter (7-1 overall, 2.68 ERA, and likely starter for our second CWS game this Sunday), and for the ability of Luke Harrison to come in to just about any game and any situation and put out a fire.  Harrison leads the team with 31 appearances.  We have a lot of great arms, and I think among Stevens, Olivarez, Southard, Sthele, Johnson, Morehouse, and Duplantier, Coaches Pierce and Allen will weave together enough successful innings so that we are playing for our seventh national championship on June 26 or June 27.

The season started well with several great series wins and an 11-0 start.  The last two wins of that early streak were over Tennessee and Louisiana State.  Then the Horns had a tough stretch in March, which included losing a road series to South Carolina.  Our first Big 12 series was in Lubbock, and Texas lost the first two games in extra innings before salvaging a Sunday win.  Texas took 2 out of 3 in against the Land Thieves at Globe Life Field in Arlington to get even in conference play.  The Horns won 2 out of 3 over Texas Christian, but then lost 2 out of 3 to K State in Manhattan.  I thought the series sweep of Baylor signaled a righting of the ship, but then we got swept at home by Oklahoma State.  Texas won 2 against West Virginia in Morgantown then swept Kansas.  A 14-10 final Big 12 record and a fifth place finish was not what we expected.  But that is in our rear view mirror, distant past.

My favorite game of the regular season which we did not win was a Tuesday night game with the Air Force Academy.  The Falcons came in and beat us good, 14 to 2.  But chills still go up and down my spine as I think about those young men lining up on the third base line for the National Anthem, and their commanding officer instructing them “Air Force, attention”, and every man on the team snapping in the most erect salute one can imagine, as we sang the Star Spangled Banner. Then, when the game was over, they quietly stood facing the Texas dugout and the Texas Longhorn players, as the Horns and the Texas fans sang the Eyes of Texas.  More on that below.

As challenging as our pitching situation was so many times a season, that weakness, which is normally Texas’ greatest strength, was offset by a phenomenal season at the plate.  We have 6 guys hitting over .300, an offense led by not just one of best hitters to ever step to the plate on The Forty Acres, but one of the best in college baseball in a long, long time.  And this great offensive team was also the best defensive team in the nation.  I couldn’t decide what to tackle first, but decided that I would go with defense.

Defense

Texas has been the nation’s best defensive team, with a .996 fielding percentage.  This 2022 Texas team has stars around the diamond.  That starts with our catcher, Silas Ardoin. Ardoin may be one of the best catchers we’ve had in years, and most believe that he will play in the major leagues.  Silas has a .990 fielding percentage.  Going around in position order, Ivan Melendez has played a spectacular season at first base, with a fielding percentage of .997.  Mitchell Daly has played much of the season at second base, and he leads the Big XII with 187 assists (fielding percentage of .986).  In the tournament, Murphy Stehly has played a lot of second, including in the Super Regional, and he has a .990 fielding percentage.

The Texas shortstop is a fan favorite, No. 0, Trey Faltine.  It is worth watching the Longhorns play baseball just to see the plays Trey makes.  180 assists and a .963 fielding percentage, he is a special talent.  The most pleasant surprise of the season has been graduate transfer Skyler Messinger, who came to Austin after nice career with the Kansas Jayhawks.  Skyler has covered the hot corner at third base well, and he has a fielding percentage of .976.

Moving out to left field, returning starter and one of our favorite players on the team, and really our only left-hand bat, is Eric Kennedy.  EK is fast, and he has a .954 fielding percentage.  Kennedy pulled a hamstring early in the season, and we were blessed to have Dylan Campbell step up and ably fill his role, .988 FP.  Douglas Hodo III has played, and I believe started, every game in centerfield.  Centerfield at Disch-Falk is a demanding position, and Hodo has met and exceeded the demands of the number 8 position.  I don’t want to jinx him.  He has had a spectacular season defensively.  Murphy Stehly played much of the season in right field, although in the tournament he has been playing second base some, and Dylan Campbell has played in right.

Offense

The Texas offensive barrage in 2022 was led by Senior Ivan Melendez from El Paso.  Ivan, nicknamed the Hispanic Titanic, broke Kyle Russell’s Texas season homerun record (28) a couple of weeks ago, and Ivan has 32 homeruns heading into Friday night’s game with the Irish.  A couple of weeks ago he was named the Collegiate Baseball Player of the Year.  He won the Perfect Game 2022 Player of the Year award on Thursday.  This morning (Friday), Ivan won the Dick Howser Trophy, the National Collegiate Baseball Writers’ National Player of the Year (and the fifth Texas Longhorn to win it).  He is the a finalist for another of the biggest awards in college baseball, the Golden Spikes award.  Ivan was batting over .400 heading into the tournament, but that average has dropped to a still magnificent .396.  He leads the nation in Slugging Percentage at .888%, is fourth in the nation in On Base Percentage at .516%, and his OPS of 1.404 is first in the country.  Ivan leads the nation in Total Bases with 213 (the guy in second has 186).  He is best in the country with 94 runs batted in.  I think Ivan Melendez is the greatest offensive player I have ever seen at the Disch.

Ivan bats third in the Texas lineup, and I believe one must attribute some of Ivan’s success at the plate to the fact the man batting cleanup is another successful senior, Murphy Stehly. Murphy is one of the best all-around players on the team, and at the plate he is second on the team with a .375 batting average, 19 home runs and 61 RBI, and 183 total bases (5th in the nation).  He has a .680 slugging percent and a .434 on base percentage for a 1.114 OPS.  Opposing teams had to pitch to Melendez a lot, although Ivan did lead Texas with 52 walks.

Skyler Messinger is third on the team with a .372 batting average.  11 homers, 59 RBI, .574 slugging.

Sixth year senior Austin Todd was hurt early in the season, but came back as our designated hitter a couple of months ago and has played well.  The batting average for other regular starters are as follows: Todd, .331; Hodo, .319, Kennedy, .305; Faltine, .286; Ardoin, .276; Campbell, .265; and Daly .238.  Of note, Hodo, Faltine, and Ardoin are all over .500 slugging.  Hodo has 25 doubles, Stehly has 23 doubles, and Ardoin has 20.

Texas has 128 home runs on the season, leading the nation and shattering the prior season home run record for Longhorns.

I am confident, probably over confident, about Texas and our offense and defense going in to Omaha. But I do believe these guys are ready, and I know our coaching staff has them ready.

That leaves the big question of our pitching. I think the weekend in the Jungle of Greenville North Carolina playing the East Carolina Pirates may have re-solidified this Texas pitching staff. Yes, Pete got roughed up a little bit Friday night, but when you’re playing what was seeded as the eighth best team in the country on their home field, one must expect a challenge.  And I expect that will fuel Hansen even more to come out Friday night and pitch a great game.  Pete is one of the very best pitchers in the country.

2022 NCAA Tournament

Before Texas went to Greenville North Carolina for the Super Regional with the East Carolina Pirates, Texas hosted the Austin regional tournament with Louisiana Tech, Dallas Baptist, and the Falcons of the Air Force Academy. Texas beat Air Force handily Friday night 11-3.  Saturday, the Horns beat a scrappy (that’s kind) Louisiana Tech team 5-2.  Earlier on Saturday AFA eliminated DBU.  Air Force beat La Tech in the first game Sunday, earning the right to play the Horns for the fourth time in 2022.  Texas and the Academy met Sunday night, in a game where Texas played great baseball against a solid Air Force team, the only 4 seed in the country to make a Regional finals.  The Longhorns dominated in a 10-1 win.  It was a fun game for Texas fans and our team, but what made the game among the most memorable was the postgame.  More below.

Texas (the number 9 seed nationally), went to Greenville, North Carolina to play the 8 seed East Carolina Pirates.  They call their home field the Jungle, and their fans were very enthusiastic.  Texas lost Game One 7-13.  Facing elimination last Saturday, Texas got a couple of runs in the bottom of the first and led 2-1 after four.  But ECU put up a 5 spot in the fifth, and added one more in the top of the seventh.  Texas was trailing 7-2 with 9 outs left in their season.  Hodo hit a 2 run dinger to tighten it to 7-4.  Then in the bottom of the 8th, Messinger homered with Todd and Stehly on base to tie the game, then Dylan Campbell hit one over the wall in right to put the Longhorns on top 8-7.  ECU fought back and tied it in the top of the ninth, then with the season on the line, the Texas offense went to work.  Melendez with a lead-off single, Daly with a great sacrifice bunt to get Ivan to second.  ECU intentionally walked Todd, and then with 2 outs Ardoin worked a walk to load the bases.  Down 1-2 in the count, Campbell again drove the ball to right, this one a walk-off single to win the game and force a deciding Game 3 to get to Omaha.

What gives me the greatest hope about the College World Series is the performance which Tristan Stevens turned in last Sunday at ECU.  He texted Coach Pierce and told him he wanted the ball, he wanted to start.  Despite his rough outings and what I am sure was to some extent a disappointing season for him, Tristan stepped on the mound in the most important game of the year.  Stevens pitched 6 great innings, giving up just one run in the bottom of the first, throwing 101 pitches and striking out 5.  That was of course in a situation where Texas didn’t take the field on defense until nearly 5 hours after the game was supposed to start it.  It didn’t hurt that Texas got four runs on the board before ECU got an out, and the Horns had a 9-1 lead after 2 innings.  But we were reminded several times in 2022 how an explosive offensive can make almost any lead precarious.  We needed that great performance from Tristan Stevens, and he delivered.  The Pirates would not cross the plate again in the game, as Stevens threw 5 shutout innings.  Then Travis Sthele pitched 2 innings of no-hit ball and Jared Southard followed suit with a perfect 9th inning as Texas punched its ticket to Omaha.

Texas has the best offense and defense in Omaha, we have a great coaching staff which includes the great Troy Tulowitzki, and if these excellent young men who comprise the Longhorns 2022 pitching staff can do what I know they are capable of doing, Texas will have a very good chance of that seventh dogpile.  Let’s Go!

Good Stuff

I mentioned the Air Force and how cool our Tuesday game with them in April was.  Well, the final game of the Austin Regional was one really special night.  Please watch this clip from the end of the game and what followed.

Director’s Cup

The University of Texas won their second consecutive Directors Cup. This award is given to the university that accumulates the highest number points scored in a maximum of 19 sports, four of which must be baseball, men’s basketball, women’s basketball, and women’s volleyball.  The Longhorns’ success and an array of athletic excellence is briefly reviewed below, but the overall performance of the men and women who represent The University of Texas on the fields and courts of athletic competition, and the rivers, has given Texas the 2022 Director’s Cup award. Congratulations to all the Texas Longhorns who put on the Burnt Orange and represent The University, and to Chris del Conte, Chris Plonsky, all of the coaches, and all of the staff. Quite an accomplishment.

Men’s Golf

The Texas men battled at the NCAA championships, defeating Oklahoma State, then Vanderbilt, and then Arizona State in the final match to win the Longhorns’ fourth national championship in golf.  The first two titles were won in 1971 and 1972, teams led by Ben Crenshaw and Tom Kite.  The third title was a great golf team led by Jordan Spieth, Cody Gribble, and Dylan Frittelli (2012, Texas beat Alabama).  This year the Horns were led by the Cole Hammer and the Coody brothers, Parker and Pierceson, and by a great young talent Travis Vick.  John Fields is one heck of a coach.  Good video:

Women’s Tennis

The Texas women’s tennis team brought the national championship to Austin for the second year in a row, defeating Oklahoma in the finals to win the title.  A great year!

Rowing

The Texas women have become a powerhouse in Rowing, and they won their second national championship this year, edging Stanford for the title.

Track and Field

The Longhorns are coached by Edrick Floréal, known as Coach Flo.   He led the men’s track and field team to its first ever national championship, winning the indoor.  The men and women won the Big 12 Championships and both finished second in the NCAA Outdoors.  Quite a season for Coach Flo and the Track & Field teams.

Softball

The Texas softball team made it to the finals this year, battling Oklahoma in the women’s College World Series in Oklahoma City.  While not able to get the national championship, it was a great run for Coach Mike White and his Longhorns.  White has become one of my favorite coaches on The Forty Acres.

Music

Oye Como Va, from Playing for Change, featuring the great Carlos Santana and many others.

Come and Get Your Love, Redbone.  Two versions

 

Soulful Strut, Young-Holt Unlimited

Austin Photo

Carli Todd is Director of Player Development for Texas Longhorns Baseball, and she’s an accomplished photographer.  The featured photo for this post is a photo on December 1 of last year.

God Bless Texas

God Bless America

 Tim Taylor
Tailgating before Home Football Games
The Juan Heisman Tailgate
Lot 38, East of Sid Richardson Hall.

HOOK EM HORNS!!

© Timothy C. Taylor, Sr. 2022.  All Rights Reserved (as to original material).

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