The weekend began with five ACC teams in the running for a chance to make the journey to Omaha, Neb., and play in the College World Series. By the weekend’s finish, those five became one. Notre Dame (40-15) went to Knoxville, TN., and took down the number one overall seed in the tournament, the Tennessee Volunteers. The Fighting Irish took two of three in the series to secure their first trip to Omaha since 2002, and the third trip overall. During the regular season, ND was known for its pitching. Last weekend, their bats showed up as well. Trailing 3-1 in the seventh of game three on Sunday, the Irish went to work showing off some power at the plate that had not been seen all that much during the season. Back-to-back home runs by David LaManna (a two-run shot) and then a solo blast by Jack Brannigan gave Notre Dame a 4-3 lead. ND would tack on some insurance runs in the eighth to take a 7-3 lead. Jack Findley (6-2) would throw five innings of relief allowing no hits, and getting the final two outs on a 5-4-3 double play in the ninth. This marks the 16th straight year that the ACC has sent at least one team to Omaha.
The home runs ball was key to the Irish attack all weekend long. On Friday, in game one of the series, ND hit four HRs in the first four innings off of Tennessee’s Blade Tidwell. Alex Rao came out of the Irish bullpen to go 3.2 IP, giving up three runs on two hits, three walks, and three strikeouts. Findley recorded the save with two innings of one-hit, one-run baseball. The Irish took a 1-0 lead in the series on the road. The Vols had no intention of going down without a fight. On Saturday, they made sure that everyone knew it. Their offense chased Irish starter John M. Bertrand who did not make it out of the fifth inning (4.2 IP, 8 H, 6 ER). The Vols banged out 14 hits, seven went for extra bases. On the mound, Chase Dollander went seven and allowed five hits and two runs as Tennessee evened the series with a 12-4 win.
On Sunday, ND would get to Chase Burns late with a three-spot in the seventh that would end his day. They would add three more in the eight to create some breathing room for themselves. The Irish would need their bullpen to come thru once again, and that’s what they did. As Rao and Findley combined on seven and a third of four hits, one-run baseball. The two-thru-six hitters in the Irish lineup went 7-for-19 with five runs scored, seven RBI, and two home runs. The offense came through when it mattered most and so did the pitching. Notre Dame did what few thought they could do, go on the road and win. Their reward for this is a date on Friday night with Texas (47-20) in the College World Series.
In other ACC news, it was announced by Florida State’s VP and Director of Athletics Michael Alford that Mike Martin JR. will not return as the Seminoles’ head baseball coach for next season. FSU went 34-25 during the regular season. In the Auburn regional they went 1-2. A national search for a new head coach has begun. The announcement of Martin JR’s firing came on June 10.
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