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Notre Dame Baseball

Notre Dame's hour of arrival stamps time is right for Irish legends

June 12, 2022
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KNOXVILLE – Baseball doesn’t have a clock, never has and shouldn’t ever have one.

But Sunday afternoon, a berth in Omaha’s College World Series hanging in the humid, sticky, East Tennessee air, Link Jarrett looked at the clock.

Had to. His Notre Dame baseball team had trained for these moments, well, all season long.

Preseason. Back in the fall. Maybe as long ago as fall 2019, mere months after Jarrett’s arrival from UNC-Greensboro and in the depths of the Irish diamond rebuild.

Just more than two months ago, remember that grueling, gut-wrenching practice March 27, when the Irish pinged bats and popped leather inside the Loftis Center because a late-March series with Virginia Tech had featured a Friday night loss and two snowed-out affairs?

So Jarrett instinctively – and let’s be honest, who anywhere in college baseball can match Jarrett’s innate feel for the game? – turned to the clock in the visitor’s dugout inside Lindsey Nelson Stadium.

David LaManna had just silenced the sold-out crowd; well, all of it except for a hearty section of Irish faithful who ushered in “Let’s Go Irish!” chants as LaManna rounded the bags, his two-run, opposite-field blast into the Tennessee bullpen – too long dormant for the Vols – having served as a 3-3 equalizer.

“We talk a lot about the last hour on Sunday,” said Jarrett, his navy script ND hat a deeper hue because it was drenched in celebratory Gatorade. “Whether it's practice, or really it's usually the last three innings of the game. I looked at that clock, and when (David) LaManna hit that ball, it was 3:06.

“That last hour, I just can't express how tough they are in the last hour of these games. The execution, the performance of a freshman on the mound closing it out... To think that Jack Findlay probably ever dreamed of he's going to close out four postseason games? When I say unselfish, that’s what I mean. That guy never asked to start. Didn't care. Just (said) ‘Coach, let me pitch,’ and that's the philosophy of that staff. Liam (Simon) didn't quite get us where we wanted, but we had prepared this thing from the moment that the game started to use the bullpen. How we thought protecting it yesterday like I told you gave us a better chance to have the outcome we got today. I can't say enough about the guys.”

Link, you’re going to have to say more. It’s required.

The guys – your guys – are a smattering of key holdovers from the last regime and an influx of talented additions via the Notre Dame staff’s relentless work on the recruiting trail, graduate-transfer path and some select NCAA Portal finds.

They’re going to Omaha for the Notre Dame baseball program’s first trip since 2002. That team visited the Irish this year in South Bend, the group’s first time back to be honored.

This team just vanquished two decades of ghosts in a most improbable fashion.

A year after falling in three games on the road to eventual national champion Mississippi State in the Starkville Super Regional, this iteration slayed Goliath – in all his fur-coat, daddy-hat, consensus top-team splendor.

Notre Dame 7, No. 1 Tennessee 3. That, coupled with Friday’s notice-serving 8-6 Irish win, punched Notre Dame’s ticket.

Forget the 3:10 to Yuma; the 3:06 to DOMEAHA is the ticket.

“We've been talking about the last hour on Sunday since our first Sunday practice with Coach Jarrett,” said LaManna, one of several key Irish players for whom Jarrett subbed during Saturday’s blowout-loss to preserve their legs for the finale. “And it all kind of culminated and came together today. We strung some good at-bats together after we got into the game, and I was just happy I don't have to say shave the (postseason) mustache.”

Jack Brannigan, whose solo blast on a 1-2 count abutted LaManna’s dinger for a 4-3 lead the Irish would not relinquish, delivered a foreboding element with that blast.

Metaphor for the tent of a record-setting Tennessee season collapsing inward on Rocky Top, Brannigan’s bomb crashed atop a big-orange, ‘Power T’ tent beyond the Vols’ raucous left-field party porch.

“Like Coach Jarrett said, it's the last hour on Sunday,” Brannigan said. “We came in the dugout in the top of seventh, and we were talking about ‘Last hour on Sunday.’ We've talked about it basically since Coach Jarrett has been here, and we knew that the last innings were going to be ours. And Carter (Putz) got it going with the double, and when (Jack) Zyska was up to the plate, Dave (LaManna) came up to me and he said, ‘Just take a deep breath; we’re winning this game right here.’

“And then he delivered the home run, and I just put a good swing on it and kind of blacked out from there.”

Earlier this week, All-Atlantic Coast Conference Irish outfielder Ryan Cole had issued a confidence-laced warning to the Vols, when he proclaimed, “If I were them, I’d be a little scared. I think we’re a very dangerous team.”

Jarrett encouraged his team to speak the “truth”; players leaned into Cole’s sentiment.

“I don’t know if it was so much what Ryan said, but I mean, we all have social media and we’ve seen Tennessee all over our social media all year,” said Brannigan, third-generation Domer. “I think that going up against the No. 1 team in the country like that just kind of gives you that extra edge. We were so close last year, and we didn’t want to have the same feeling as last year. I think that’s the edge that you saw that we played with this weekend.”

An edge. Hardly the only motivation with which the Irish played.

“I remember when I committed to Notre Dame,” said Brannigan, his defense worth as many runs as his bat. “There were people who actually said to me that you know you better hope you win a ring in high school because you’re never going to get one in college, and that’s just the kind program it was. I’m just so proud to be a part of the team that rebuilt it. My roommate Zack Prajzner, the shortstop, he said something to me this morning.

“He said, ‘If we win this game, we’re going to be legends.’ That kind of stuck with me, and that last hour just was so special.”

The hour of arrival.

Legends? A ticket to Omaha says the time is right.

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