AUSTIN, Texas (KTSM) – The Hispanic Titanic put another feather in his cap in his pursuit of the Golden Spikes Award on Sunday night.
No. 9 Texas defeated Air Force 10-1 to win the Austin Regional and advance to play No. 8 East Carolina in the NCAA Super Regionals next weekend in Greenville, N.C. In the process, El Paso native Ivan Melendez hit his 30th home run of the season for the Longhorns.
Melendez uncorked another long home run to left field in the top of the first inning on Sunday night to give the Longhorns a lead they would never relinquish. In doing so, he became the first college baseball player since Kris Bryant (31 home runs) in 2013 to eclipse 30 home runs in a single season.
What’s more, the El Paso native and Coronado graduate became only the fourth player since 2003 to hit 30 dingers in a college baseball season. New Mexico State’s Billy Belcher drilled 32 home runs in the 2003 season, capping a seven-year stretch where at least one college baseball player hit at least 30 bombs.
The NCAA instituted new rules on bats at the turn of the century that dramatically affected home run totals, as did the bbcor bats that became the NCAA standard in 2011.
Making Melendez’s achievement even more impressive, he’s the first player in a Power-5 conference to hit more than 30 home runs since LSU’s Brad Cresse did it in 2000. Adding on to that, only seven players from Power-5 conferences have hit 30 or more home runs in a season since 1985. Rice’s Lance Berkman hit 41 home runs in 1997.
Melendez will look to continue his torrid home run pace at this weekend’s Super Regionals vs. the Pirates. He currently leads the nation in home runs (30), RBI (90) and is 10th in batting average (.404).
The Big 12 Player of the Year and Collegiate Baseball Newspaper National Player of the Year is a favorite to win the prestigious Golden Spikes Award, given to the best player in college baseball every season.