Ivan Melendez breaks Texas home run record in Big 12 title game loss to Oklahoma

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Andrew Zamora/The Daily Texan

Texas baseball first basemen Ivan Melendez uses his glove to help secure the out at first base. Texas played Rice at UFCU Disch-Falk Field on Feb 18, 2022.

Jordan Mitchell, Sports Reporter

Redshirt freshman pitcher Travis Sthele committed a balk in the third inning of the Big 12 Tournament Championship. From there, all of the wheels fell off the wagon for Texas, leading to an 8-1 thumping by Oklahoma on Sunday.

After head coach David Pierce’s initial debate with the home plate umpire, he called a meeting at the mound for a pitching change, continuing to argue the call with the second base umpire. Pierce was then ejected from the game.

“I was honestly getting a drink of water,” said Sean Allen, the assistant coach who took over managing duties after the ejection. “Oklahoma’s fans erupted, so I figured that’s what it was — either him or Travis (Sthele).”

With one base runner on and a couple of Oklahoma scores on the board from Sthele’s outing, sophomore pitcher Aaron Nixon allowed three hits and a walk for three additional runs out of the bullpen, prompting an appearance from redshirt senior pitcher Tristan Stevens.

Formerly Texas’ closer and 2021 Freshman All-American, Nixon has struggled this year with a 1–3 record out of the bullpen on the season.

“Nixon is going through some stuff, and we need him,” Allen said. “That kid has closed games at Omaha. We’re just trying to figure him out right now and stick behind him.”

With two on the bags, Stevens’ first pitch resulted in a three-run homer to right field, extending Oklahoma’s lead to seven runs.

Despite the bullpen pitching five shutout innings after the third, the kindled flame from redshirt junior infielder Ivan Melendez’s solo homer in the first inning was long extinguished. Half of Texas’ hits came in the ninth inning with two outs, where none of them would be driven in for scores.

“You try to take the momentum as early as you can,” Oklahoma head coach Skip Johnson said. “I think Cade (Horton) went and attacked the next hitter and ended up striking him out.”

Melendez’s 406-foot home run out to right-center field was his 29th on the year, breaking Texas’ single-season record held by Kyle Russell since 2007.

“I felt like I just barely made contact. It just jumped off my bat,” Melendez said. “I was just locked in on the fastball, and he provided the power.”

Allen said he never gets water when Melendez goes to hit and it would be a shame if the first baseman doesn’t win the Golden Spikes Award.

“It’s been the most special season I’ve been a part of,” Allen said. “If you’re breaking records at this University, you’re an elite, special player.” 

Despite feeling honored by breaking the record while playing at Globe Life Field, Melendez said his performance over the Big 12 Tournament was lackluster, largely due to feeling under the weather. 

“I’m a team guy. I was probably like the least productive this whole weekend from a team standpoint,” Melendez said. “I feel honored and blessed, but I just want to win at the end of the day.”

Despite the loss, Texas received good news during the game as UFCU Disch-Falk Field was announced as the host of the Austin Regional for the upcoming NCAA Tournament. The full bracket has yet to be revealed, but Texas will be the top seed in its region, and play will begin Friday.