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Why Texas Will Be the 2022 College World Series Champions (And Why They Won't)

While preseason rankings in college baseball are only for discussions leading up to Opening Day, this year's No. 1 ranked team may be atop the rankings for a good reason.

The Texas Longhorns, ranked first in College Baseball Nation’s Top 50 since the preseason rankings were released, are the frontrunners to win the 2022 College World Series.

Coming fresh off a 2021 appearance in Omaha, Texas is looking to win their first championship since 2005. The roster that David Pierce has assembled this season could be his best.

To open the 2022 season, the Longhorns have been on a roll; they are 8-0 to start the season, which includes sweeps over in-state rival Rice and the SEC’s Alabama Crimson Tide.

The ultimate question for Longhorn fans this year is: what will get this team to (or keep them from getting to) Omaha?

The Positives

Starting Pitching

Texas’ group of starting pitchers is easily among the upper echelon in college baseball. No matter the day, the opposing ball club is facing one of the best starting pitchers in the country.

Friday night starter Pete Hansen may be one of the most dangerous pitchers in all of college baseball, as he has already proven his worth in his first two starts of the season. Hansen has pitched a combined 11 shutout innings so far this season and has struck out 16. The left-hander was unbelievable a season ago when he posted a 1.88 ERA in 91 innings. While it may be tough to improve upon his 2021 season, he’s already off to a quick start in his redshirt-sophomore season.

Texas’ Friday starter hasn’t allowed a run yet this season, and neither has its Saturday starter Tristan Stevens. Stevens’ is in his fifth season at Texas and sixth collegiate season, and he’s only getting better. In his first season as a weekend rotation piece a year ago, Stevens had a 3.31 ERA and progressed as the season went along. The experience is only a plus for the Longhorns, as Stevens is sandwiched between a redshirt sophomore and a true sophomore

That sophomore is none other than Tanner Witt, the preseason College Baseball Nation first team All-American. What makes the Longhorns incredibly dangerous is that any of these three pitchers could have been named the team's top pitcher.

Witt showcases an unbelievable curveball, as he has already struck out 14 in 11 total innings of work; nine of those strikeouts came in six innings against Alabama Sunday.

In college baseball, what will catapult a team the most is its starting pitching. With Texas, having the ability to throw three different aces in a weekend bolsters their chances of making a run into June.

Aaron Nixon headlines a dominant bullpen

One of the best relief pitchers in all of college baseball is Aaron Nixon, and he showed that in Friday’s 1-0 Texas victory. Entering the game in the eighth inning, Nixon struck out two — including one with two outs and the bases loaded — in the five-out save. This is only a preview of what he can do in high-leverage situations.

Nixon is only the headliner, while the Longhorns also have redshirt freshman Travis Sthele, redshirt sophomore Jared Southard, and true freshman Luke Harrison also available to throw multiple innings.

Simply put, Texas has one of the best pitching staffs in the entire nation.

Ivan Melendez’s presence is powerful in the middle of the Longhorns lineup

Texas’ powerful first baseman Ivan Melendez is one of the best hitters in the Big 12. After being named to the All-Big 12 first team a year ago, Melendez has taken over the first base position and has continued to rake. In 2021, he hit 13 home runs with a .319 batting average.

What may be more impressive about the 6-foot-3 redshirt junior is his high on-base percentage from a year ago, posting a .436 OBP. Keeping that OBP up will be key to the success of the middle of the Longhorns lineup.

If Melendez is able to continue his dominance in the middle of the lineup, that brings an immediate strong presence for the Longhorns.

But, what could go wrong?

Besides the obvious potential of injuries, the only other question mark that remains for the Longhorns is their lineup. Texas doesn’t have a lineup that is as dangerous as other top 10 teams. With that, most of their starters have been struggling to open up the season. Melendez is only hitting .250, while Skyler Messinger (.238 AVG), Mitchell Daly (.200 AVG), and Dylan Campbell (.188), all who have played every game so far, have been struggling as well.

The pitching has already shown its dominance for Texas this season, but it’s going to be the lineup that’s going to be what needs to come up big. A perfect example is Friday’s 1-0 Texas win over Alabama. Even with the Longhorn pitching dominating, the offense only had five hits and scored its own run on a wild pitch. The cold weather to start the year may be partially to blame for the lackluster offensive production, but the offense needs to step up if Texas wants to continue to be the best team in the nation.

Worst Case Scenario

Even in a worst case scenario, Texas should be expected to win the Big 12 regular season title, and it would be shocking if they didn’t. However, without consistent offensive production, Texas could get upset in their own regional. One of their starting pitchers could have a bad game and the Longhorns could find themselves in the losers bracket in their own Regional — always an unenviable task.

For this season to be categorized as unsuccessful, the Longhorns would have to miss out on Omaha, whether that’s dropping out in a regional or super regional.

Best Case Scenario

Well, this one won’t take much explanation.

Texas expects to be playing in Omaha, and that expectation can become a reality if they remain healthy and can be productive when needed at the plate. The Longhorns rotation is comparable to national champion runner-up Vanderbilt’s from a year ago.

This is the best team Austin has had since their 2005 College World Series Championship. The time is now for Texas.


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