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Texas' Melendez Lives Childhood Dream, Keeps Longhorns Alive In College World Series

In one swing, Ivan Melendez cemented his legacy at Texas to keep the Longhorns College World Series hopes alive.

He must have dreamt it over 100 times as a kid. In a game when his team needed him most, he'd deliver the clutch swing. 

Calling his shot like Babe Ruth? Best believe he thought of doing it himself. Over the fence to roar of thousands cheering his name? How could he not think that one day, that could be him. 

But as Zach Zubia tossed his bat and made his way to first base, he pointed at Ivan Melendez in the on deck circle. That dream moment had arrived in the top of the ninth inning in a must-win game for Texas. 

Melendez could be the hero for the Longhorn. All he needed was to drive Mike Antico home. 

Instead, he cemented his legacy with Texas baseball. One swing now has the Longhorns a game away from playing for a national title for the first time since 2009. 

READ MORE: How Zach Zubia's Swing Kept Texas' College World Series Hopes Alive And Well

Texas is back, and so is Melendez's clutch factor.

"We're definitely amped up about this win," Melendez said following the 8-5 win. "They beat us twice this year, but at the same time I think they're conservative about their pitching; I didn't see them use any of their dudes that they usually go to. But tomorrow we're going to be ready."

Melendez waited patiently at the plate to take on Bulldogs' (47-17) reliever Parker Stinnett. Each pitch led to higher pressure for the designated hitter, knowing the season was on line. 

With a 3-2 count, it was go time — and go it did. 

Melendez launched one over the left center field wall for a three-run home run, giving the Longhorns the lead late. 

Melendez knew it was gone as he it left the bat. Stinnett knew as he watched Rowdey Jordan try to chase it down. It was too late as the designated hitter rounded first to the roar of cheers from the Longhorn faithful. 

"I knew he was going to come back with it just because I laid off the slider early in the count and I was seeing it well," Melendez said. "Obviously he threw me a fastball, I swung underneath it. He obviously wanted to come back to that after a big swing and miss. But off the bat it felt pretty good."

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In two days, Melendez's bat has found a groove. His second inning double Thursday allowed Texas to take an early 1-0 lead over Virgina. His single in the eighth inning gave Texas a 3-2 lead to secure the win and advance to Friday's rematch. 

Entering Thursday, he was 5-of-24 without an extra-base hit in seven games during the tournament. By Saturday morning, his four hits would be the most influential to Texas' season. 

Melendez added an insurance run in the top of the seventh inning with an RBI single to score Eric Kennedy and make it 5-2. A long eighth inning allowed the Bulldogs to pull back a tie the game at 5-all. 

Two walks and a sacrifice bunt later, Melendez entered the batter's box. The rest, well, you know how the perfect ending goes. 

"I give Ivan so much credit for just being ready for that pitch and being ready to swing the bat and wanting to be in that situation," Texas coach David Pierce said. "He did a great job of just having confidence in the box and wanting to help his team win and just did a great job with that."

As he rounded third, his teammates waited at home. TD Ameritrade was rocking, this time in favor of Texas' unsung hero.  

A dream became reality. A moment was forever enshrined in the rich history of Omaha. 

Melendez magic was alive and well. Now, he'll need it one more time to give Texas a chance to face Vanderbilt and leave Omaha with a national title. 

"We just need to keep this momentum. I like our lineup right now," Melendez said. "We've been having changes top to bottom moving people all over. But 1 through 9, we'll compete and battle every pitch."


CONTINUE READING: Texas’ Steady Attack, Late-Night Hitting Triumphs UVA

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