Opening weekend wrap-up: Fans show out for Texas baseball’s 3-0 sweep of Rice

Jordan Mitchell, Sports Reporter

Editor’s Note: This article first appeared in the Feb. 21, 2022 in the flipbook.

Texas baseball had a record-breaking attendance of 21,580 fans for its opening weekend series against Rice.

The previous record, set in 1990 during the opener against Arizona State, had 20,843 fans at UFCU Disch-Falk Field in Texas’ 2–1 series win (9–5, 11–4, 6–3). 

Following their successful opening weekends, both the 1990 and the 2022 teams were ranked No. 1 in the nation. 

Coached by National College Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Cliff Gustafson, the 1990 team came off a season where the Longhorns made a deep Omaha run, finishing as runner-ups in the College World Series.

In other words, crowds flooded the ballpark to support Texas in both 1990 and 2022 during the first games of their respective revenge seasons.

“We’re passionate about Texas baseball and supporting the team,” longtime Texas baseball fan Marc Peña said. “It’s (special) seeing the friends and the families out here during (the start of) baseball season.”

Redshirt sophomore pitcher Pete Hansen said that the fan presence motivates the team to exceed expectations.

“These guys are really excited to be back out here (in front of fans),” Hansen said. “We’re gonna earn that ranking in everything that we do.”

Although Texas baseball’s 2022 campaign already boasts striking similarities to the 1990 team, the new squad doesn’t look to repeat history. Gustafson’s squad failed to bring home a championship after they lost in the regional final to Cal State Fullerton.

In its sweep of Rice, Texas made visible strides towards its CWS aspirations. Former designated hitter Ivan Melendez’s move to first base went off without a hitch, posting a perfect fielding percentage with 28 putouts and four assists. The El Paso product also blasted two moonshots over the “Monster,” a 28-foot wall in UFCU Disch-Falk’s center field.

Despite his power behind the plate, Melendez said he does not have a goal for how many home runs he hopes to hit this year. Instead, he’s focused on his technique and team success.

“We just want to win a national championship,” Melendez said. “I think (home runs) come on their own if I just put (in) good swings.”

The battle for designated hitter between redshirt senior Murphy Stehly and sophomore Dylan Campbell proved that there is no wrong answer for the starting player. Stehly produced two doubles and a trio of RBIs, while Campbell reached home plate twice on four walks and a couple of hits.

Overall, Texas played a complete weekend of baseball, outscoring Rice 36-3 with the pitchers allowing a mere 18 hits in 93 at-bats and the defense recording one fielding error.

“We’re definitely hungry and want to win,” redshirt sophomore Trey Faltine. “(We) want to not only prove to everybody else, but prove to ourselves that we are capable.”