The drama between Tennessee and Notre Dame has already begun before the Knoxville Super Regional takes place on the diamond this weekend.
On Wednesday, Notre Dame outfielder Ryan Cole made a fascinating comment about the Tennessee team before the weekend’s games begin. Cole said that if he was on the Tennessee team, he would be “a little scared” of Notre Dame entering the weekend in Knoxville.
Notre Dame LF Ryan Cole was asked by @tnoieNDI what might be troubling about the Fighting Irish from the Tennessee perspective.
Cole: “I couldn’t tell you exactly what they see, but if I were them I’d be a little scared. I think we’re a very dangerous team.”
Oh boy. Game on. pic.twitter.com/TKlQpP84eq
— Tyler Horka (@tbhorka) June 8, 2022
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Notre Dame is a good baseball team as evidenced by their spot in the Super Regionals. Heck, they swept the Statesboro Regional on the road last weekend. But is Tennessee a team that gets scared of competition? Just ask Jordan Beck.
“I just don’t think we fear very many people,” Beck said on Sunday after the Vols’ victory over Georgia Tech. “Even when we’re down, it’s kind of like motivation to go more and have better at-bats and kind of push the game farther. The game is honestly more fun when they’re close like that. You can see the competitiveness come out in us.”
If anything, after surviving scares against Campbell and Georgia Tech over the weekend, there really couldn’t be a worse time for that statement. Tennessee is a dominant team that ran through their regular-season competition but did learn from the series loss against Kentucky. In addition, nothing about the second and third games of the Knoxville Regional came easy for Tennessee as the Vols overcame four-run deficits in both contests.
Notre Dame’s offensive numbers don’t jump off the page, but the Irish do bring a talented pitching rotation to Knoxville. Notre Dame’s pitching ranks No. 4 in strikeouts per nine innings, No. 7 in team ERA, and No. 10 in WHIP (walks and hits per innings pitched).
Tennessee has a healthy respect for their competition, and the team considers it a strength that they were able to face great pitching in the regional round. According to Tennessee first baseman Luc Lipcius, the pitching that the Vols saw last weekend will benefit them moving forward.
“They’re a really solid team,” Lipcius said about Notre Dame on Thursday. “Their pitching staff is going to be really good. They’ve got a lot of veterans. I don’t think it’s anything we haven’t seen before, though. This past weekend we saw a bunch of really top-tier arms, so I think we’re just going to keep doing our thing and be confident in what we have.”
After covering Tennessee for the entirety of the season, it doesn’t feel like there are a lot of teams that Tennessee is scared of. Healthy respect? Sure. Scared? Feels more like fuel for the team compared to anything else.
Just go back to the beginning of conference play this season. After Tennessee handily defeated Ole Miss 12-1 in Oxford to start the series in March, Ole Miss’ Dylan DeLucia threw shade at Tennessee following the loss.
“We took them lightly,” DeLucia said via Nick Suss of The Clarion Ledger. “It won’t happen again. We will win tomorrow. I’ll tell you that. It’s one of those things where they play in a small field. We have a bigger field, so we thought we could throw it in to them. It didn’t work out. We missed some spots and that’s why they ended up hitting the homers. Tomorrow will be a lot better.”
Tennessee went on to beat Ole Miss two more times that weekend to sweep No. 1 Ole Miss, which was followed by a sweep of No. 3 Vanderbilt in Nashville the next weekend. In fact, whether it had a lot of weight or not, Tennessee went on to rattle off 10 straight wins after that comment was made.
Is Tennessee scared of Notre Dame? Will the Vols use Cole’s words as bulletin board material before the series? We’ll find out when Tennessee and Notre Dame take the field at Lindsey Nelson Stadium in the Knoxville Super Regional this weekend. Friday’s game will take place at 6:00 p.m. ET and Saturday’s game will be at 2:00 p.m. ET.