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CWS notebook: Texas' Ivan Melendez bags a national honor, with the biggest one on deck

Kirk Bohls
Austin American-Statesman
Texas first baseman Ivan Melendez has hit 32 home runs this season, which set a school single-season record and led the country. He's in line to win the Dick Howser Trophy on Friday as college baseball's best player.

The honors keep rolling in almost as fast as the home runs have rolled out.

Ivan Melendez, Texas’ record-setting slugger, was named first-team All-American by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association on Wednesday. The senior first baseman led the nation with 32 home runs and helped pace the Longhorns to their second straight College World Series appearance.

In addition, Texas ace Pete Hansen and utility man Murphy Stehly were chosen to the third team. 

Hansen, Texas’ Friday starter, has an 11-2 record with a 3.40 ERA and 115 strikeouts in 103⅓ innings. Stehly, who had one home run last year, has 19 homers with a .375 batting average.

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Texas State closer Tristan Stivors also was picked to the first team after leading the country with 18 saves for the NCAA regional finalist Bobcats.

Melendez is considered a strong contender if not the favorite for the Dick Howser Trophy, which will be presented Friday morning in Omaha before Texas A&M faces Oklahoma at 1 p.m. and Texas plays Notre Dame at 6 p.m. He's hitting .396 after topping .400 almost the entire season with 94 RBIs.

Other Longhorns who have won that award as the best collegiate player in the nation were outfielder Scott Bryant in 1989, two-time winner Brooks Kieschnick, who was a pitcher and hitter in 1992 and 1993, and pitcher Taylor Jungmann in 2011.

Old hands on deck: Texas coach David Pierce loves the experience on his team and the fact that six regulars were also starters on last year’s team that came within one win of the CWS championship series.

Ten Texas players played in CWS games last season, and 14 players of the traveling squad of 27 were on the roster. Sixth-year senior designated hitter Austin Todd was not there because of injury.

Texas is taking the same 27-man roster to the CWS that it has used the entire post-season.

“I’ve been there with inexperienced teams that have done well and with experienced teams,” said Pierce, who is making his third trip to Omaha with Texas. “Some of the older guys have shared some things with their teammates like how the field plays, the shadows, the wind.”

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Pierce isn't even looking at the other side of the CWS bracket, focusing only on Texas' half. The Longhorns open Friday night against Notre Dame while Texas A&M faces Oklahoma in the opener.

"We're going to play in a regional (again)," Pierce said. "There are two regionals. That's how we look at it. All our focus is on Notre Dame."

Pair of Horns: Travis Vick won’t be playing baseball at the CWS, but the Texas golfer has been chatting it up with great friend and Longhorns outfielder Douglas Hodo III during the baseball team’s postseason run.

“Me and Doug are really good friends,” Vick said Wednesday. “We played together back in Little League when his dad and my dad coached us and we played on the same select baseball team. We’ve both been cheering each other on. It’s been pretty cool.”

Vick gave up baseball and football before his senior year at Houston Second Baptist, where he was coached by former Houston Astros great Lance Berkman. He had “some small D1 offers, but nothing earth-shattering” in baseball as a pitcher-shortstop but knew his future lay in golf.

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Vick will have his hands full this week as well as Hodo since he qualified for the U.S. Open and will tee off early Thursday morning as one of 15 amateurs and four Longhorns in the major. He’s played a practice round with Masters champion Scottie Scheffler and has big-time ambitions after a stellar year in which he was named second-team All-American along with teammate Pierceson Coody.

Vick hit the lag putt of his life from about 25 feet on the final hole of the NCAA championships to beat his Arizona State opponent and clinch the national title for Texas. He and his teammates flew home, courtesy of Jordan Spieth’s arrangement for a private jet, and now Vick prepares for his first major at The Country Club in Brookline, Mass., after qualifying with an 8-under score at Royal Oaks in Dallas.

Brookline is the same golf course where former Longhorn Justin Leonard hit the famous putt to win the Ryder Cup for the Ben Crenshaw-coached U.S. team in 1999. Vick got to break bread with Leonard this week at a USGA-sponsored dinner for the amateurs, including Texas A&M’s Sam Bennett.

“He’s solid,” Vick said of Bennett. “What he’s accomplished at the amateur level has been pretty impressive.”

The two will be teammates on the U.S. team along with A&M’s Walker Lee that will play in the Arnold Palmer Cup in Switzerland on July 1-3. 

Asked if he gets along with Bennett, Vick said, “We’re friendly with one anther, but it’s nice to flex the NCAAs in front of them.”