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With baseball cancellations trending, No. 22 Texas breezes past Sam Houston State

Danny Davis
Austin American-Statesman
Texas' Ivan Melendez celebrates a Longhorns run during the second inning of Tuesday night's 9-2 win over Sam Houston State at UFCU Disch-Falk Field. Melendez hit his 26th home run of the season in the first inning, leaving him two away from tying UT's single-season record.

On Tuesday night, Texas' baseball season resumed with a win.

Boosted by a strong start, No. 22 Texas stormed to a 9-2 win over Sam Houston State at UFCU Disch-Falk Field, powered by a pair of home runs hit by Ivan Melendez and Murphy Stehly. The Longhorns had 12 hits in all.

"We have expectations," pitcher Zane Morehouse said. "I feel like we fulfilled them pretty good today."

Texas (36-17) had been off since May 10 because of academic finals. But considering the rash of recent cancellations, the fact that the week-long break didn't last a few more days was noteworthy.

No. 6 Texas A&M (Incarnate Word), No. 13 Texas State (Houston Baptist), No. 24 TCU (Tarleton State), Ole Miss (Arkansas State) and Liberty (High Point) all had scheduled games on Tuesday. All of them were called off.

While various reasons were cited for the cancellations, Texas A&M coach Jim Schlossnagle was blunt about the alteration to the Aggies' schedule. He said his team's RPI needed to be protected since the NCAA Tournament selection committee relies heavily on that metric.

Like Texas State, TCU, Ole Miss and Liberty, A&M has a top-40 RPI. Like Arkansas State, Tarleton State, Houston Baptist and High Point, Incarnate Word's RPI ranks outside the top-175, so even a win would not have helped the Aggies' standing.

“I think, when the NCAA committee puts such an emphasis on RPI and different things and then conference games matter so much, when you get to this time of the year you have to manage that,” Schlossnagle told the Bryan-College Station Eagle.

Texas coach David Pierce talks to his players during the second inning Tuesday night. No. 22 Texas hosts Kansas to close out the regular season in a three-game series starting Thursday at UFCU Disch-Falk Field.

Ahead of Tuesday's game, Texas had the No. 18 RPI. Sam Houston State checked in at No. 106.

So why did the Longhorns and Bearkats play? After the game, Texas coach David Pierce described himself as "old school." Weather is the only excuse he believes in calling a game.

"The system is what it is. We know the system at the beginning of the year, just like we know it at the end of the year," Pierce said. "It's my obligation to our program when I schedule that I owe it to our fan base, I owe it to our team, I owe it to our development that we go out and play the games.

"I don't think there's any way that anybody should be trying to manipulate the system to benefit individually. That's just how I feel."

Texas jumped out to a 7-0 lead Tuesday and never looked back. The first seven hitters all reached base in the first inning, and even the first two outs — a Dylan Campbell flyout and an Eric Kennedy groundout — still drove in runs.

Backed by the early run support, six pitchers combined to guide Texas to the finish line. The lone run that Sam Houston State (29-22) scored over Morehouse's five innings of work was a double from Carlos Contreras, the national RBIs leader and a graduate of Lake Travis.

"I feel like I threw all right," said Morehouse, a redshirt sophomore who allowed four hits and struck out five Bearkats. "There's some stuff I've got to work on. Some situations where I've got to grow up a little bit and learn the situation and execute some different pitches."

Key play: The biggest swings in the six-hit first inning belonged to Melendez and Stehly. Melendez drove home the first runs with a three-run homer that traveled an estimated 445 feet. In the next at-bat, Stehly connected on a solo shot.

Melendez's blast was his 26th of the season, and he is now just two homers shy of tying Kyle Russell's school record. Stehly went deep for the 15th time. This marks the first time that two Longhorns have hit 15 homers in the same season.

Notable number: 2. Before Texas adjusted its defense after the fifth inning, two Bearkats grounded out to Stehly at second base. He also tagged out a runner that attempted to steal.

More:Murphy Stehly has becomes a staple for Texas' baseball team

A regular in right field this season, Stehly made his third start at second base. With Stehly in the infield, Texas started Kennedy in left field and shifted Campbell to right. Kennedy, a long-time starter who has been dealing with an ailing hamstring, was making only his second appearance since April 3. 

Stehly started in place of Mitchell Daly at second. Daly is hitting just .247, but he doubled in a run after subbing into the game in the sixth inning. Defensively, Daly helped Texas turn one of its three double plays Tuesday.

Up next: Texas has a short turnaround before Thursday's opener of a three-game series against Kansas to close out the regular season. The Longhorns and Jayhawks are currently the Big 12's fifth- and last-place teams.