Baseball

Texas 4 Nevada 3: No homer, no problem as Melendez’s 2 RBI help Texas extend win streak to nine games

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The biggest story surrounding Texas Baseball from the past week has come to an end. After six straight games with a home run and national player of the week honors from D1Baseball.com, Ivan Melendez’s night concluded without a homer Tuesday versus Nevada.

But despite his lack of a hit out of the park, his third inning double was crucial to the Longhorns’ 4-3 victory. Texas’ win in game one of the midweek series with the Wolfpack extended its winning streak to nine games.

Melendez has drawn plenty of attention in the past week because of his powerful stretch, but it is not solely individual attention considering Texas entered the top five in several of the major national polls. Texas head coach David Pierce mentioned his team now has a target on its back, and they can’t worry about the current praise since teams like Nevada would love to knock them off their pedestal.

“That’s good, I mean that’s what we want,” Pierce said. “We want expectations. We want people to play their A-game or prepare for us, because that means they’re paying attention.”

Pierce said he did not address the streak or anything like that with Melendez pregame. He didn’t want to make his designated hitter worry about homering when the win is more important. Instead, he hammered home the message of tuning out the noise to Melendez and the rest of the team.

Melendez and others took Pierce’s words to heart. With two out and runners on first and second, Melendez popped to short right field. The Wolfpack defense justifiably played its outfield a shade deeper considering the El Paso product’s recent power surge, and Nevada right fielder Anthony Flores needed to sprint in to have a chance at a play.

He did not have the necessary wheels and the ball landed to ensure Melendez extended his hitting streak to nine games. Zach Zubia scored with ease from second base since he was running on contact. Silas Ardoin was off at the crack of the bat too but the 270-foot journey from first to home takes him longer than others on the team.

Still, Pierce sent him home. Flores’ throw was on time, and Wolfpack catcher Matt Clayton’s tag appeared to be too. Home plate umpire Michael Dorantes thought Ardoin was out as well and emphatically made his ruling on the third out of the inning.

Pierce requested a review, and the umpires took a second look at the close play. They determined Ardoin safely slid in before the tag, making it a 3-1 game.

“I couldn’t tell if his hand was in,” Pierce said. “I knew (Clayton) tagged him, but I couldn’t tell if his hand was in. But they were pretty adamant about it, so I said let’s do it.”

Texas needed every run it could manage versus Nevada. Playing a West Coast style, the Wolfpack limited what Pierce refers to as the short game – bunts, stolen bases, and hit-and-runs. Nevada caught Texas’ only stolen base attempt thanks to a pitchout. The ‘Pack also threw pickoff attempts to first and second to limit the running game.

These strategic tactics utilized by the visitor made Melendez’s double even more pivotal in the outcome of the game. Despite not clearing the fences, Pierce was satisfied with the result considering it ended in a Texas victory.

“I just think as a team, we just need to understand it’s about us,” Pierce said. “It’s about us going out and playing our game and playing for each other.”

The Longhorns added one more run in the fifth when Williams reached on a fielder’s choice to bring in Zubia from third to make it 4-2.

The fourth run kept Texas in the lead in the eighth inning. With a runner on first and one out, Nevada’s Dillan Shrum hammered a ball off Cole Quintanilla to deep right center. The wind was blowing in at UFCU Disch-Falk Field for most of the evening and whatever breeze existed kept the Longhorns in front in this situation.

Shrum’s blast hit the top of the wall and deflected past Mike Antico toward the Longhorn logo in center, plenty of time for a runner to score from first. The Nevada first baseman’s RBI triple narrowed the deficit to one run and put the tying run 90 feet away.

That’s where Shrum would stay. Quintanilla forced the next hitter to ground to a brought-in Faltine, and did the same thing to the next batter this time with Faltine at regular depth.

Quintanilla entered in relief of Tanner Witt in the eighth inning. Witt had thrown 2.2 innings of one-run ball with five strikeouts. One of those strikeouts was a 12-pitch battle with Flores, who punched-out looking at a breaking pitch that broke into the strike zone.

“I think it was a great confrontation between he and the hitter,” Pierce said. “The kid did a nice job of fouling off a lot of fastballs. What I loved to see is Tanner had the guts to go ‘alright, I’m going to go to my breaking ball right here,’ and struck him out and froze him.”

Witt took the victory while Aaron Nixon closed out the ninth on seven pitches to earn his third save. Justin Eckhardt started and went 3.1 innings before being replaced by Palmer Wenzel, who allowed two hits and an earned run in his inning of work.

Texas and Nevada square off again Thursday with first pitch at 6:30 p.m.