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Ivan Melendez and Trey Faltine power No. 1 Texas baseball to season-opening sweep of Rice

After hosting the Rice Owls and thousands of fans at their place this weekend, the Texas Longhorns got their brooms out Sunday.

Ivan Melendez crushed a pair of three-run home runs and Trey Faltine also homered as No. 1 Texas obliterated Rice 14-2, completing a season-opening sweep. The Longhorns produced 29 runs in the final two games. Sunday's win came in front of an announced crowd of 7,039 at UFCU Disch-Falk Field; there were 21,580 fans for the three games, a UT record for a season-opening series.

"I knew we were going to win, but we were blowing them out of the water," Melendez said. "I was happy for everybody."

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Texas first baseman Ivan Melendez, center, celebrates scoring against Rice during Sunday's 14-2 win. Melendez hit a pair of three-run homers, his first hits of the season.

A solo home run by Rice's Austin Bulman in the first inning actually had Texas (3-0) facing its first deficit of the season. The Longhorns responded with two runs in the bottom of the first, and held onto that 2-1 lead till they gained some breathing room in the fourth.

Faltine's solo homer jump-started the Texas offense. Melendez later added a three-run blast.

The homer for Faltine — Texas' third-year shortstop — punctuated a successful weekend. He went 5-for-13 against the Owls, driving in six runs with four extra-base hits over the three games. In Friday night's opener, he tripled for the first time in his career. He also hit two doubles on Saturday.

"He's got a good swing, he's just got to swing at the right pitches and not think too big and it will happen for him," UT coach David Pierce said. "I thought he did a great job swinging the bat and he showed some patience."

Melendez, meanwhile, had gone hitless in his first seven at-bats of the season. His first hit, however, sailed over the batter's eye in center field and traveled an estimated 451 feet.

Melendez transferred to Texas last season and led the Longhorns with 13 homers. Three of those are considered "monster shots" in the school record book — home runs that clear or bounce off the 28-foot high wall in center field. There have been only 45 monster shots in Longhorns history; Melendez is the first to have hit three of them.

Texas pitcher Tanner Witt makes a throw to first to throw out a Rice runner during Sunday's 14-2 win at UFCU Disch-Falk Field. It was Witt's first career start; he starred last season as the Longhorns' closer.

"He's special, that's why you see the balls go that far," Faltine said. "He's a special talent. I've never seen anything like it."

Melendez clubbed another three-run homer in the sixth inning, though that moonshot wasn't considered a monster shot since it wasn't hit to center. It did sail an estimated 447 feet and nearly hit the scoreboard in left field, though.

"It looks effortless," Pierce said. "It looks like he's taking a nice, easy swing and the ball just jumps."

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Facing an overmatched Rice team that started ex-UT pitcher Thomas Burbank, Texas divvied up 13 hits among eight players. Owls pitchers also had 13 walks. Three of those free passes were issued with the bases loaded.

Texas' pitchers fared better. In his first college start, former closer Tanner Witt allowed five hits over five innings. Luke Harrison, Daniel Blair, Lebarron Johnson and Aaron Nixon all pitched an inning of relief.

Key play: With one out in the first inning, Texas loaded the bases. A fly ball off Silas Ardoin's bat then brought in two runs.

After Antonio Cruz caught Ardoin's flyout in shallow right field, all three runners tagged and Eric Kennedy got home safely. Rice caught Mitchell Daly in a pickle on the play, but Daly eventually got back to first base safely. To add insult to injury for an Owl team that could have gotten out of the inning with a successful rundown, Melendez scooted home after starting the sequence at second base.

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That flyout gave Texas a 2-1 lead. The crowd wasn't able to see the new score on the scoreboard in right field, however.

In fact, that scoreboard at UFCU Disch-Falk Field was turned off all weekend. Drew Martin, the executive senior associate athletics director at Texas, explained on Twitter that because of "supply chain delays," the scoreboard will be inoperable all year. It will be replaced before the 2023 season.

Notable Number: 36. Texas scored 36 runs over the first weekend of the season. The Longhorns opened their season with a 7-0 victory over Rice on Friday. Then came Saturday's 15-1 blowout

Texas last scored at least 30 runs over the first three games of a season in 2008. The Longhorns opened that spring with 6-2, 17-4 and 10-2 victories at home over VCU.

Up next: Texas and Texas A&M-Corpus Christi have midweek meetings set for Tuesday and Wednesday at Corpus Christi's Whataburger Field. All-time, UT has won 22 of the 27 games it has played against the Islanders.

Texas won't be on the road for very long. After playing the Islanders, the Longhorns will return to Disch-Falk for a weekend series against Alabama.