2022 College Top 25 Preview: No. 1 Texas

Image credit: (Photo by Eddie Kelly)

Last season: 50-17 (17-7 in Big 12); reached College World Series
Final Ranking: No. 3
Coach (record at school): David Pierce (172-94, five years)

The good news: Even after losing ace Ty Madden, Texas has arguably the best pitching staff in the country. Steady fifth-year senior righthander Tristan Stevens returns to the rotation, to be joined by third-year sophomore lefthander Pete Hansen, who primarily pitched as the midweek starter last season, and sophomore righthander Tanner Witt, who was excellent as a reliever in 2021. Freshman righthander Joshua Stewart, No. 198 on the BA 500 ahead of last year’s draft, should also get an opportunity as the team’s midweek starter. Sophomore Aaron Nixon, a summer teammate of Witt’s on USA Baseball’s Collegiate National Team, also returns to anchor the bullpen. Run prevention in general will be a strength for the Longhorns, as they also boast top-notch defenders all over the field in third-year sophomore catcher Silas Ardoin, grad transfer third baseman Skyler Messinger (Kansas) and third-year sophomore shortstop Trey Faltine, among others. 

The bad news: Texas has some firepower to replace in the lineup, as the departed trio of Cam Williams, Zach Zubia and Mike Antico combined for 33 home runs. Fourth-year junior first baseman Ivan Melendez returning to the lineup is a boon for the Longhorns, as he led the team in homers last season with 13, but they will need other run producers to step up around him. With plenty of speed and athleticism to go around in the lineup, including at second base with sophomore Mitchell Daly and in the outfield with fourth-year junior Eric Kennedy and third-year sophomore Douglas Hodo III, Texas may have to look to make things happen on the bases to be the most productive version of itself in 2022. 


Player to know: Tanner Witt, RHP

With all of the experience it returns, the floor for the Texas pitching staff is high, but Witt being successful in his transition to the rotation after a freshman season spent in the bullpen is a huge key for the staff in unlocking its potential as the best unit in the sport. Stuff isn’t a question for Witt. His fastball last season averaged just over 92 mph and touched 96 and both his breaking ball and changeup had better than 30% whiff rates. The spin profile of his fastball and breaking ball is also such that those pitches can play up even better than the numbers show. His track record, limited as it may be, is also tough to argue. He took to a multi-inning relief role extremely well last season and saved his best for Omaha, where he threw 5.2 scoreless innings against Tennessee in an elimination game. 

Path to Omaha: If the Texas pitching staff lives up to its potential, it’s going to be very difficult to beat in a three-game series, and both the depth and quality of the staff sets it up well to win in both the regional and super regional format, which present different challenges. And if the offense steps up and replaces the production from those departed sluggers, Texas could challenge to be a wire-to-wire No. 1 team straight through to Omaha. 


2022 lineup

C Silas Ardoin R-So. .239 .389 .315 184 1 33
1B Ivan Melendez R-Jr. .319 .438 .603 204 13 51
2B Mitchell Daly So. .316 .413 .416 209 2 31
3B Skyler Messinger R-Sr.
SS Trey Faltine R-So. .249 .374 .401 217 5 37
LF Eric Kennedy R-Jr. .253 .333 .352 233 4 27
CF Douglas Hodo III R-So. .281 .384 .398 221 5 44
RF Austin Todd R-Sr. .292 .346 .292 24 0 2
DH Dylan Campbell So. .189 .262 .302 53 1 7
Pos. Name Yr. W L ERA IP SO SV
LHP Pete Hansen R-So. 9 1 1.88 91 80 0
RHP Tristan Stevens R-Sr. 11 3 3.31 111 77 0
RHP Tanner Witt So. 5 0 3.16 57 73 5
RP Lucas Gordon So. 0 0 3.32 22 19 1
RP Aaron Nixon So. 4 3 2.12 34 35 9

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