Written by: William M O’Shea
Notre Dame upsets No. 1 Tennessee 8-6
Not much has to be said about #1 Tennessee that would surprise you at this point. They went 53-7 in the regular season, 25-5 in the SEC, led the country in home runs (150) and ERA (2.38, 0.79 better than second-ranked Southern Miss), and don’t really have any weaknesses.
They came into the super regional round at around +180 to win it all, and were so dominant that the
question heading into this weekend was, “would you take the Volunteers or the field?”.
Littered with future professionals, Tennessee looks to become the first No. 1 overall seed to hoist the trophy in Omaha since the Miami Hurricanes in 1999. However, before they step foot in Omaha, they’ll have to go through a veteran Notre Dame team. They have seven graduate offensive starters and coach Link Jarrett does a great job at making their opponents uncomfortable early in ball games.
The Irish pitch you backwards, hit and run, and play small ball, all while being led by John Michael
Bertrand on the mound who carries a 2.27 ERA and will pitch game 2. They barely lost to
Mississippi State last year, and will look to change the narrative as they go to Knoxville to take
on this year’s favorite.
Blake Tidwell got the nod in Game 1 for the Vols. The dominant sophomore gave up a two-run shot at the hands of Carter Putz in the first inning. Down 2-0, Tennessee got the first two men on board before Jordan Beck grounded into a double play.
Irish pitcher Austin Temple would then get top MLB prospect Drew Gilbert to ground out to end the inning. In the second, Jared Miller homered, and would be followed just an inning later by a two-run bomb by Jack Zyska to put Notre Dame up 5-0. Tidwell, who allowed only six long balls heading
into the series, then gave up half his prior season total in just three innings of work before Tony Vitello pulled him in the fourth.
Beck got the Vols on the board with a sac fly, but Notre Dame got that back and then some. Jack Brannigan tallied three more Irish runs with a homer that cleared the left field deck of Lindsey Nelson Stadium. Tennessee had two come from behind wins in the regional against Campbell and Georgia Tech, but down 8-1, they really had their backs against the wall for the first time in the postseason.
Austin Temple would go three innings before Alex Rao came in to relieve the short start.
He would go 3 ⅔ innings, giving up home runs to Trey Lipscomb and Jorel Ortega in the fourth and
sixth, along with another run in the seventh.
His stats may not look pretty, but Temple gave Notre Dame much-needed containment of a seven-run lead that was never thought to be safe against such a dynamic offense.
Flamethrower Ben Joyce had 3 ⅓ innings of relief, keeping Tennessee in the ball game and in striking distance. The game took a huge turn in the fifth, when Drew Gilbert was tossed for cursing at the umpire, arguing a borderline strike call.
It came as a surprise until the ESPN replay showed what had actually been said, with pitching coach Frank Anderson also getting bopped. Freshman Jack Finley came in the eighth for Notre Dame and closed the door on Tennessee, who suffered their first ever super regional loss (previously 6-0).
Behind their ace in Bertrand, Notre Dame has all the momentum heading into Game 2. It’s now or never for the juggernaut in Tennessee.
No. 8 ECU Beats No. 9 Texas 13-7, Pirates just one win away from punching their first ever ticket to Omaha.
ECU hosting Texas set us up for a David vs Goliath with regards to program histories.
The Longhorns are college baseball royalty, having made 37 World Series appearances in the 74 years of its existence. The Pirates, on the other hand, have never been. They’ve been to the tournament 32 times, the most for a college without a trip to Omaha, and 20 more than South Alabama, who has the second-most at 12. Clark-LeClair stadium erupted as they broke an all-time attendance record and probably an alcohol consumption record as well.
ECU put recently turned starter CJ Mayhue on the bump for Game 1. The lefty gave up a
double to leadoff hitter Douglas Hodo, but then struck out Dylan Campbell and Golden Spikes
Award favorite, the “Hispanic Titanic” Ivan Melendez.
He would not leave the first unscathed, however, giving up a two-run jack to the probable Big 12 player of the year runner-up in Murphy Stehle on a two-strike count. The resilient ECU, winners of 21 of their last 22, would bend and not break, responding with three runs of their own in the bottom of the 1st. Zach Agnos came in off a passed ball, and then 6’6” freshman Jacob Jenkins-Cowart brought in the other two on a line drive single.
If ECU was going to beat Texas, their best shot of doing so was to take pitcher Pete
Hansen out of the game early and face the Longhorns’ only weakness in their bullpen. They
would do just that, as the southpaw ace with a 3.40 ERA would give up six runs over four frames.
Hansen had previously gone nine-straight outings of six or more innings, contrasting with an ECU
club that had just six appearances in the ENTIRE SEASON of 6+.
The Pirates led 7-2, but that five-run cushion quickly turned to just two, with three solo shots
from a Texas team that ranked tied for sixth in the country with 118 home runs. Melendez hit his
NCAA-leading 31st of the year, Stehle hit his second of the game, and Hodo capped the homer barrage the next inning.
ECU put one on the board in the seventh, making it 8-5 heading into the top of the eighth. That’s when the Texas bats awoke, starting a rally off AAC Pitcher of the Year Carter Spivey.
A double by catcher Silas Ardoin would put the tying run on second with no outs. Pirates Coach Cliff Godwin took out Spivey and turned to shortstop Zach Agnos to keep the lead intact. A ground ball to second made it an 8-7 ball game, with the tying run on third. Agnos got himself a shallow enough fly out to keep the tying run from scoring. With two outs, Hodo scorched a liner to the five-hole but
Alec Makarewicz made a diving play to hold onto the lead.
ECU would then put the game away in the bottom of the 8th with a five-spot, beginning
with a hiccup by Douglas Hodo in centerfield, who dropped a fly ball at the warning track that
dropped over the fence.
Leading 13-7 in the 9th, Agnos would shut the door on the heart of the Texas order,
making ECU just one win away from their first World Series appearance ever.
Oklahoma beats No. 4 Virginia Tech 5-4, Sooners hold on late in Blacksburg
Virginia Tech clinched its first super regional birth ever, sweeping the regional tournament and outscoring their opponents 46-15 over just three games. Projected to be a bottom-feeder in the ACC before the season, the Hokies high-powered offense, led by future first rounder Gavin Cross, led them to a regular season title at 8.8 runs/game, ninth in the NCAA.
All that being said, the Sooners came into town as only a slight underdog against the fourth-ranked team in the country. They upset No. 13 Florida in the Gainesville regional after capturing the Big 12
Tournament title, and have the bats to possibly rival Tech’s.
The Sooners hit the ground running, scoring in the first.
John Spikerman led off with a walk for the Sooners, and then immediately stole second base. Oklahoma, ranked fourth in the country in stolen bases at 140, and took advantage of catcher Hunter Cade who was just 11-38 with runners moving on the year. Blake Robertson would bring him with a single.
Starter Griffin Green would only go one inning before coach John Szefc handed it off to
Henry Weycker. Oklahoma would tack on two more in the second, with singles from Kendall Pettis
and Spikerman, but Weycker would manage to save their bullpen, going 4 ⅔ deep.
The big story for this game revolved around pitcher Jake Bennett, who shut out the Hokies offense for the first 5 innings. The 6’6” lefty sophomore’s fastball sat in the mid 90s all game, as he had eight strikeouts over seven innings. Tech was able to get base runners, but couldn’t capitalize when they needed to until it was too late.
Squires and Pettis each singled in the sixth, giving the Sooners a 5-0 lead. However, the Hokies would respond with a two-run bomb from Carson Jones, finally getting them on the board.
Then, in the seventh, an error with two outs would serve as a much-needed extra run when Jack Hurley hit his 14th homer of the year, giving the Blacksburg crowd some hope in a 5-4 ball game.
But it would be only zeros from then on, with Trevin Michael getting the ball in the last two
A fly ball hit to the warning track by Nick Biddison in the bottom of the ninth would be the red herring of hope for a comeback in Game 1. With the total set at 13 for this game, the bats
disappointed as a result of Bennett’s fantastic start. Expect them wake up for Game 2 in
Blacksburg tomorrow. Oklahoma leads 1-0.