There was a time on Sunday night where you were probably making plays for a Monday viewing of the winner-take-all Knoxville Regional title game. Down 4-0, then 4-2, and then 4-3 late, things were far from comfortable at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.
And then, yet again, Tennessee did what they do. They exploded for a six-run ninth inning, something you could almost feel coming. The Vols held on in the bottom of the ninth, beating Georgia Tech 9-6 to advance to the Super Regionals.
Next up will be Notre Dame, which handled Texas Tech on Sunday.
“I’m gonna go humblebrag,” Tony Vitello said after the dramatic win. “I’m just gonna throw it out there. The only reason I know we’re playing Notre Dame is one text message, and that was from Peyton Manning. So thank you for sending it, Peyton.”
Vitello admitted he hasn’t seen much of Notre Dame, saying he only caught a couple of batters when their game was on in his office over the weekend.
The Fighting Irish are 38-14 overall, going 16-11 in ACC play. They beat Texas Tech 3-2 on Friday and then took care of Georgia Southern 6-4 on Saturday. With a trip to the supers on the line on Sunday, Notre Dame once again beat Texas Tech, 2-1.
Here was our own Matthew Seece on Notre Dame last week, detailing Tennessee’s path to the College World Series.
In a conference that crushed the ball, Notre Dame found themselves to be the lone ACC squad with a sub-4.00 team ERA. Pitching is the strength of this team much like it was a year ago when they won their regional.
John Michael Bertrand used a strong 2021 to become the ace of one of the nation’s best pitching staffs as a graduate senior, posting a 2.39 ERA with a 3.62 FIP and 1.007 WHIP in 90.1 innings pitched. Bertrand went 5-plus innings in all but one start.
Jacksonville transfer Austin Temple provided a huge lift to the starting staff, posting a 3.19 ERA in 59.1 innings. His ACC tournament performance was a bit of a mixed bag; he was wild in his two-thirds of an inning outing against Florida State, allowing a pair of runs after Bertrand tossed a gem. He rebounded well, though, tossing four innings of one run ball against North Carolina.
As for the bats, Notre Dame doesn’t pack a ton of thunder, but they can be active on the base paths. Jack Zyska had a breakthrough season for the Irish, posting career bests across the board. Jack Penney has shined in his staggered at-bats this year, and should he get consistent plate appearances in the tournament, he could be a real difference maker as he has been all year.
Tennessee will be hosting their second consecutive Super Regional this weekend. It will be the fourth in school history, and the Volunteers bring an all-time 6-0 mark to the round. The Volunteers swept East Carolina in 2001, Georgia Tech in 2005 and LSU in 2021.
This weekend’s super regional is set to begin on Friday, per UTSports.com. Game two will come on Saturday, and game three — if necessary — will be played on Sunday.