Jack Myer/The Daily Texan
Editor’s note: This article was originally published in the Jan. 21, 2022 flipbook.
The 2022 season is fast approaching for Texas baseball, and a team of seasoned veterans with chips on their shoulders will set out to avenge a heartbreaking season-ending loss in the 2021 College World Series.
Last year, the Longhorns showed resilience in Omaha, fighting through three elimination games to stay in contention for the title. Head coach David Pierce’s team came up just short in the Longhorns’ walk-off loss to Mississippi State, which would go on to defeat baseball blue blood Vanderbilt in the championship.
Prior to this season, Texas lost Ty Madden, a standout right-hand pitcher and 2021 All-American to the MLB draft, alongside Mike Antico, Cole Quintanilla, Kolby Kubichek, Cam Williams and Zach Zubia in the Longhorns’ largest draft class in four years. Despite the departures, Texas is well positioned to make another run at the title game with seven preseason All-Americans returning to UFCU Disch-Falk Field in the spring.
Here are the seven preseason All-Americans to watch for in Texas baseball’s opening series vs. Rice:
Pete Hansen: First Team All-American
Hansen, a redshirt sophomore, will be an experienced weekend starter at pitcher for the Longhorns. The left-hander from El Dorado Hills, California, capped off his 2021 season with a mere 1.88 earned run average and a 9–1 record in his 19 appearances for Texas.
During the tail-end of the season, Hansen shined bright as a weekend pitcher. Against No. 3 TCU, he pitched seven shutout innings with his well-placed fastball, keeping a talented Horned Frogs squad off-balance to take the series. Fans can expect the southpaw to command the mound with poise and efficiency.
Ivan Melendez: First Team All-American
The El Paso product was expected to sign a professional contract this past summer, but after being selected as the No. 479 pick in the MLB Draft, Melendez decided to run it back in Austin to improve his draft stock and try for another College World Series appearance with the Longhorns.
As the Big 12 Designated Hitter of the Year, the Odessa College transfer led the Longhorns with a .319 batting average and recorded 51 RBIs during the 2021 season. The infielder will move over to first base as scouts and baseball fans alike look for potential in his fielding following the departure of former first baseman Zach Zubia to pursue professional baseball.
Trey Faltine: Second Team All-American
Faltine established himself as a dominant infielder at shortstop last season for Texas, fielding at a .968 clip and turning 40 double plays in his 66 starts. Faltine is known for his defensive wizardry up the middle, but he also packs a punch with his bat. Last season, he hit at a .249 and was second on the team with 18 doubles.
Faltine plays his best when the lights shine the brightest. In his five NCAA Tournament games for the Longhorns, the shortstop hit .421 with three doubles and half a dozen runs.
Tristan Stevens: Second Team All-American
Fifth-year pitcher Stevens came back to Texas after going undrafted, despite being projected to have a much higher draft stock. His significance as a returner is intangible as a starting pitcher and leader. Stevens has been a Longhorn for over four years and started his career on the Forty Acres following Tommy John surgery in his first year of eligibility at MCC-Maple Woods.
In his 2021 campaign, the Missouri product led the team with 11 wins and allowed only 23 walks in an outstanding season as a weekend rotation pitcher.
Tanner Witt: Second Team All-American
Son of former Blue Jays first-round pick Kevin Witt, the Freshman All-American turned heads as a relief pitcher for Texas’ bullpen. In his 28 appearances for the Longhorns, he finished with a 5–0 record and pitched 5.2 shutout innings against Tennessee.
As a weekend starter in 2022, fans can expect the sophomore to impress with his breaking ball and demeanor when playing in the big moment. Over the summer, Witt also played for the USA Baseball Collegiate National Team and looks to be ready for his new starting role for the Longhorns.
Aaron Nixon: Second Team All-American
As Texas’ second Freshman All-American, Nixon emerged as a closer for the Longhorns last season, leading the team with nine saves and recording an earned run average of 2.212. He is expected to reprise this role in 2022.
Mitchell Daly: Third Team All-American
Finishing second on the team with a .316 batting average, Daly proved himself to be a valuable all-around rookie for Texas. The second baseman was Texas’ third Freshman All-American on the team, posting 66 hits and 31 RBIs while fielding a .964 and recording a 23-game on-base streak during the season.