Tristan Stevens lights-out in Greenville Regional Game 3, Texas reaches 38th College World Series

Redshirt+senior+Tristian+Stevens+throws+a+pitch+during+the+Alumni+game+on+February+5.

Jonathan Sherchand/The Daily Texan

Redshirt senior Tristian Stevens throws a pitch during the Alumni game on February 5.

Jordan Mitchell, Sports Reporter

In Texas’ 11-1 victory over East Carolina in the Greenville Super Regional’s decisive final game, completing the top of the first inning took over five hours.

Before the lengthy weather delay, Ivan Melendez, redshirt junior first baseman, had already brought two runners home with an early bomb out to left field. The three-run homer was his 32nd of the year, breaking a record for the most home runs in a single season since the NCAA adopted new bat technology in 2011.

Despite the five-hour delay, Texas’ offense needed little time to settle back into Sunday’s elimination game.

Following a 16-pitch first inning that saw redshirt senior pitcher Tristan Stevens give up the lone run he allowed on the night, redshirt sophomore shortstop Trey Faltine rocketed a line drive past East Carolina’s shortstop Zach Agnos, igniting another offensive surge in the second inning. 

“I felt locked in from the start,” Stevens said. “We wanted to minimize their big innings. We knew if we could keep them to zero to one run per inning, we’d have a good shot. … That was our game plan, and it worked.”

Following Faltine’s single, Douglas Hodo III, redshirt sophomore center fielder, and Eric Kennedy, redshirt junior left fielder, both reached base before East Carolina’s C.J. Mayhue intentionally walked Melendez, setting the stage for redshirt senior infielder Murphy Stehly’s two-run double.

“Murph (Stehly) feeds on that, he really does,” head coach David Pierce said. “He thinks he’s better than Ivan (Melendez), trust me. But that’s how you have to think, and he has that mindset that it’s his opportunity and he’s always ready.”

With a 7-1 lead already in tow, the Longhorns brought two more runners home to reach 9-1 before the end of the second inning. 

Despite Texas’ offense only producing two more runs in the final seven innings, the Longhorns never lost momentum. Behind the pitching tandem of Stevens, redshirt freshman Travis Sthele and redshirt sophomore Jared Southard, the Longhorns shut out the Pirates for the rest of the game, keeping East Carolina’s offense dormant.

Starting for the first time since April 30 against Oklahoma State, Stevens pounded the zone throughout the game, adopting his early-season strategy of pursuing putouts rather than strikeouts by pitching to contact. 

With two runners on in the sixth inning, pitching coach Sean Allen and redshirt sophomore catcher Silas Ardoin met Stevens on the mound to ask if he was ready to exit the game. 

“He doesn’t have a limitation in his mind,” Pierce said June 8. “We have to watch the ball and decide it’s time to get him out because mentally, he can go forever.”

With two outs on the board, Stevens threw three more pitches, inducing a pop-up that Skyler Messinger, graduate transfer third baseman, put away, preventing another score and seemingly exhausting any hope for an East Carolina comeback.

“The goal was three to five (innings) from Tristan (Stevens),” Pierce said. “Fortunately, we got six outstanding innings from him.”

Stevens finished the game with his seventh win of the season, dealing 101 pitches for five strikeouts and allowing a mere five hits in his six innings of work after already throwing 23 pitches in the first two games of the Super Regional.

“This is exactly why I came back, to help this team get to Omaha and win a championship,” Stevens said. “I texted Coach Pierce and Coach Allen saying that I wanted the ball, and they gave it to me. … Getting the opportunity to do that tonight, it made everything I’ve ever worked for all worth it.”