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Simon's time to shine in Game 3; more Irish Super Regional notes

June 11, 2022
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KNOXVILLE -- Tennessee coach Tony Vitello, having not yet talked to his three-game-suspended pitching coach Frank Anderson Saturday afternoon following his Vols’ season-sustaining 12-4 win, declined to name a starting pitcher for Sunday’s Knoxville Super Regional title bout.

Notre Dame skipper Link Jarrett, on the other hand, wasted no time when he formally announced hard-throwing Liam Simon as the Game 3 starter for the Irish (39-15), who will be seeking the program’s first College World Series berth in 20 years.

“It lines up. It lines up for him,” Jarrett said of starting Simon, whose Game 1 performance in the Statesboro Regional helped set the stage for Notre Dame’s advancement to the Supers. “If he can dial it in, obviously the stuff plays.

“Some of the other guys that haven’t started as much lately, maybe they’re a little more comfortable in the relief role. I think it lines up. How does it play out? I can’t tell you.”

While Simon, 2-0 in 14 appearances with 49 strikeouts in 27 innings, gets the opening nod, the Irish bullpen largely has most arms available as Notre Dame seeks to punch a World Series ticket with a second Super Regional win against the tournament’s top-seeded team, having lost done so against Florida State 20 years ago.

Jarrett confirmed that hard-throwing right-hander Alex Rao could return Sunday, saying “he felt OK (Saturday).”

Additionally, the Irish can use savvy left-hander Aiden Tyrell, who played a key role in Notre Dame’s 2021 Super Regional appearance at Mississippi State.

“I can’t speak highly enough about Liam,” said John Michael Bertrand, the Irish staff ace. “He’s a competitor and you’ve already seen it the last couple of times he’s gone out and he just keeps getting better and better.

“I think being able to get that experience under his belt and kind of building that confidence pitch-by-pitch helps him. He’s going to be ready.”

IRISH READY?

Notre Dame’s post-game press conference put the closing thoughts on Saturday’s blowout-loss, but Bertrand – the team captain, All-America selection and one of the undisputed heartbeats of the team – made clear the Irish would embrace the Game 3 stage.

“It’s Championship Sunday,” Bertrand said. “It’s what everyone wants to be at, so we’re kind of ready for it. The rest of the day (Saturday) you treat it however you want; if you want to kick your feet up and take it easy. Probably do a lot of recovery, stay hydrated and get your mind right, whatever that may be to get ready for tomorrow.”

POWER PACKAGE

Somewhat confoundingly, Jarrett was asked if the Irish would just get back to hitting home runs Sunday since they needed a fast start to get atop the Vols and put the pressure back on the tournament’s No. 1 team.

“I hope. Man would that be nice. Golly,” Jarrett said. “We didn’t do some things real well today. The fastball-attack never really seemed like we were on it.

We have to be better than we were today. Now the guy (Vols pitcher Chase Dollander) is what he is today, there’s a reason the numbers are what they are.

“(Sunday) we have to execute our game plan better. The variety of what to do, we ran and probably have a chance to steal third base. There’s some things we can do offensively but when you get down like that, you have to be a little more conservative with the risks you take. Execution of the game plan far more important. And if you do that, the home runs are really a byproduct of pitch-selection and timing than really an attempt to do it. And that’s what worked (Friday) night.”

HEALTH STATUS

In addition to Rao being rested enough to return if needed from the bullpen Sunday, Jarrett said he expected Carter Putz also to be back in the Irish lineup.

Putz exited early after he stumbled and “tweaked an ankle” rounding first base on a hit. Jarrett also subbed out catcher David LaManna, Ryan Cole and second baseman Jared Miller.

Jarrett indicated he expected all of those pitchers to be available on Sunday.

 
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