Tennessee taken apart by Notre Dame
In the upset of the season, the team tipped to win it all, the number one seed for most of the season, is sent home with their tails between their legs
Cheered on by ugly scenes from a classless Knoxville crowd, the Tennessee Volunteers, easily the best team fielded in college baseball this season, slinked out of the College World Series after losing Game 3 by a score of 7-3 to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. This will mark the first trip to the College World Series for the Irish since 2002.
Already in a dark mood ever since Drew Gilbert’s much-deserved ejection in Game 1, the Knoxville crowd showed themselves to be as horrible as their team is talented. All day long, they spewed hate at the field, directed mainly at the umpiring crew, but also catching Notre Dame players and coaches in their wake.
Through it all, the Vols looked to be cruising, up 3-1 through the sixth inning, when David LaManna’s two-run bomb in the seventh, followed by a back-to-back solo shot by Jack Brannigan, gave the Irish the lead for the first time. The crowd fell silent for perhaps the first time in the game.
Errors abounded in the eighth when first Brooks Coetzee III was hit by a pitch and then Luc Lipscius was short-hopped on the throw from third and couldn’t come up with the ball. With men on second and third after the sac bunt moved them over, Carter Putz poked one deep into the gap in right center to push the score to 6-3. A single by Jack Zyska scored another before the inning was out.
Bone-headed base running by Drew Gilbert and a couple of routine fly balls nullified Tennessee’s half of the eight inning, giving them only one more shot to salvage their season. A routine out and a double play was all they could muster, going down quietly 7-3 in the Knoxville Super Regional.
It can’t be understated how great an accomplishment it is that the Irish have pulled off. Their quality has been outstanding all season, and in reality they should have been a Top-16 team, hosting a regional. As it turned out, they had to do it the hard way, going on the road throughout the tournament.
The Irish have focussed on fundamentals and small-ball tactics rather than big, eye-catching home run blasts, but that is not to say that they were not capable of the long ball, too.
Florida State have been eyeing up Notre Dame head coach Link Jarrett to take over their program next season, and this will certainly make his claim stronger. But he isn’t thinking about that right now, he has to focus on Omaha.
As Notre Dame moves on to the College World Series, all bets are off. They have as good a chance as anyone to make it to the final, and possibly win it all. You never know, after all, they have already taken the very best team in the land apart.