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Notre Dame Baseball

Button-Downed Notre Dame Must Ignore Rocky Top Rowdies

June 7, 2022

Super Regional. Knoxville.

It's an exciting time for Notre Dame baseball to hear those words as a trip to the College World Series is on the line once again.

Tennessee will present a challenge the Irish haven't seen this season as the Vols are ranked No. 1 in the country and hold a record of 56-7, including an impressive 37-3 at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.

What stands out about the Vols? Well ... just about everything as Tennessee is No. 1 in the nation in ERA (2.38), and at the plate, the Vols are also ranked No. 1 in home runs (150) and runs scored (592).

It's quite the statement, but it doesn't stop there as Tennessee is different than any other program in the country with its attitude alone, according to a trusted source.

"What makes Tennessee so deadly ... Tennessee tries to absolutely intimidate its opponents," the source told ISD. "Some younger teams are not used to this and could fold in that ballpark. Tennessee batters will scream at Notre Dame's pitchers while running to first base. They will bat-flip like it's wiffle ball and try to bully opponents.

"It's important for Notre Dame to keep its composure and let Tennessee know they will not be intimidated."

The Irish aren't a team known for chirping, but Notre Dame started to show a little more emotion than usual last weekend in Statesboro, Georgia in the opening-round regional hosted by Georgia Southern.

Jack Zyska made sure to let a Georgia Southern pitcher know he hit a homer as soon as it left the bat, while the Irish pitchers certainly weren't afraid to show a little fire after crucial outs.

That said, Notre Dame doesn't need to get into a chirping match and the Irish veterans will be counted on to keep cool heads despite 5,000 Vols ready to explode.

"Notre Dame has a core group of veteran players who have been through many environments over the last four to five years," explained the source.

"I still believe Notre Dame is one of the few teams in the country that can go in there and win. Link (Jarrett) will have a great game plan and Tennessee may underestimate how good Notre Dame is while looking forward to Omaha.

"Notre Dame will have to play its usual great defense and not have a poor defensive game like the first game in Starkville last year."

Jarrett's club took Game 2 last year against Mississippi State before falling in Game 3.

How can the Irish take two of three against what is being billed as perhaps one of the all-time great college baseball teams in perhaps the most hostile environment in the country?

It starts with small details.

"Notre Dame can take two of three by hanging around until the 5th or 6th inning and getting to the Tennessee pen," stated the source. "To me, the pen, aside from RHP Ben Joyce (who throws over 100 mph), it's Tennessee's weakness. It's not overpowering.

"Notre Dame's styles of play gives them a great chance to win the series. Notre Dame will have to limit strikeouts against Tennessee's starters and then steal bases. Tennessee really struggles to throw runners out. Notre Dame's offense sets up great for this."

The Irish pitching staff was lights-out in Statesboro as Notre Dame scored just 11 total runs in three games; the group will again be tasked with stopping the nation's best offense.

Tennessee enters the Super Regional with nine players hitting 10 or more home runs. Trey Lipscomb leads the Vols with 21 home runs and 80 RBI.

Notre Dame's pitchers will need to hit a new level to get to Omaha, but they are also more than capable and it starts with All-American LHP John Michael Bertrand.

"Notre Dame's pitchers will have to pitch to all five areas of the zone and keep hitters off-balance," the source said. "Notre Dame will have to pitch inside and not let Tennessee get comfortable looking for pitches away all game. Some of Tennessee's hitters really struggle with off-speed pitches, so Notre Dame can't rely on fastballs the whole game.

"The key will be locating. Velocity will not be enough."

Finally, our source has experienced the wild atmosphere (and the Vol creatures) in Knoxville and has some advice for Notre Dame and those Irish fans headed to the Super Regional.

"Notre Dame fans and players should know this will be very different than Starkville," said the source. "Not as many fans as Mississippi State because the park is small, but the fans aren't very welcoming like in Starkville.

"Tennessee fans will be tough on the players and not welcoming to Notre Dame fans. It's a much different atmosphere. Starkville is a party atmosphere for home and opposing fans. Knoxville is intense and will not treat you like guests.

"They live pitch-by-pitch and will be louder than any place Notre Dame has played. They will not feed Notre Dame BBQ like at Mississippi State after the game. They want to beat Notre Dame 40-0. There will be kids at the frat house on the right-field line screaming at Notre Dame's players during practice before the first game and during the game.

"It's a circus."

Game 1 | June 10th | 6:00 PM | ESPN2
Game 2 | June 11th | 2:00 PM | ESPN
Game 3 | June 12th | TBA | ESPN (If necessary)

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