Vols, Fighting Irish Collide With Omaha Berth On Line

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Tennessee and Notre Dame meet at Lindsey Nelson Stadium this weekend with a trip to the College World Series on the line.

The Vols have been the best team in the country all year while Notre Dame comes to Knoxville with the ACC’s best pitching staff looking to avenge last season’s super regional loss at Mississippi State.

Here’s everything you need to know about the Knoxville Super Regional.

How Notre Dame Got Here

Notre Dame enters the Knoxville Super Regional 38-14 (16-11 ACC) and winners of five of its last six games.

The Fighting Irish lost just once in a light pre-conference slate which was headlined by matchups against Illinois, Michigan State and Minnesota at the Cambria College Classic.

Weather canceled a number of Notre Dame’s premier ACC games including one matchup against North Carolina State and two versus Virginia Tech. 

The Fighting Irish were up-and-down in conference play. Notre Dame lost four straight games to Louisville and Virginia Tech, swept Florida State and Clemson consecutive weekends before turning around and dropping all three to Duke. The first five ACC series that Notre Dame played completely ended in sweeps. The Fighting Irish did the sweeping three times while getting swept twice.

Link Jarrett’s third team in South Bend entered the NCAA Tournament after dropping its final regular season series at Miami before going 2-1 in the ACC Tournament.

Notre Dame swept through the Statesboro Regional, winning a pair of one-run games against Texas Tech and a two-run game over Georgia Southern — the regional host.

Projected Pitching Matchups

Tennessee is keeping its pitching plan the same as the last two weekends, starting Blade Tidwell on game one and Chase Dollander on game two.

Graduate senior Austin Temple will start for Notre Dame in the series opener against Tidwell. The right-handed pitcher is 4-1 with a 3.46 ERA in 13 starts this season. The Jacksonville  transfer had given up just three earned runs in his last four starts before allowing four earned runs in 5.2 innings pitched against Georgia Southern last weekend.

Saturday’s game two matchup will pit Tennessee and Notre Dame’s best pitchers against one another. LHP John Michael Bertrand is 9-2 with a 2.27 ERA in a team-high 99 innings pitched.

The fifth-year senior played his first three collegiate seasons at Furman before transferring to Notre Dame for his final two seasons. Bertrand pitched twice in the Statesboro Regional including 7.2 scoreless innings in the regional clinching win over Texas Tech.

Neither Tennessee nor Notre Dame has tipped its hand on its potential game three starter. The Vols have started Drew Beam in that role the last two weeks, but Tennessee could use Chase Burns or Camden Sewell in that role.

Notre Dame has used a number of pitchers as its third starter this season including Jack Findlay (5-2, 2.11 ERA) and most recently Liam Simon (2-0, 4.67 ERA).

The Fighting Irish have a strong and deep bullpen, boasting nine total pitchers with an ERA lower than six and 20 innings pitched this season.

“(Austin) Temple, likes to spin it, but also the fastball doesn’t lie either,” Tennessee head coach Tony Vitello said. “But I’d say the depth (is the most impressive thing). And we’ve kind of talked about depth here a lot of times because you all bring it up, and we feel confident in a variety of guys off the bench, whether it be on the offensive, defensive or pitching side of things. I think in particular, pitching is an up and down thing for them, they’ll rely on guys in a bunch of different settings and roles it seems like. I’m not a master of what their team does and doesn’t do, but you can look at the save numbers and see that they clearly trust a lot of guys and guys are capable of doing a lot of different things for them.

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Notre Dame Bats To Know

While Notre Dame boasts one of the best pitching staffs in the country, its offense is lackluster. The Fighting Irish rank between 51st and 112th nationally in every major offensive statistic.

Notre Dame’s best offensive team stat is batting average where four starters are hitting over .300. Ryan Cole is the Fighting Irish best bat, hitting .323 with nine home runs and 33 RBI. Cole is also a strong baserunner, stealing 20 bases on the season.

David LaManna (.359), Carter Putz (.330) and Zack Prajzner (.301) round out the Notre Dame players hitting over .300.

Jack Zyska and Brooks Coetzee bring the power to the Fighting Irish lineup, tying for a team-high 11 home runs while Coetzee ties for the team lead with 42 RBI.

While Tennessee has nine players with double-digit home runs this season, Notre Dame has just three.

Game Times/How To Watch

Game One — 6.p.m. ET Friday broadcasted on ESPN2

Game Two — 2 p.m. ET Saturday broadcasted on ESPN

Game Three (if needed) — Sunday game time has yet to be announced

Ryan Schumpert is a senior at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville who has covered University of Tennessee athletics since the moment he stepped on campus. He just completed a three-year stint with the Daily Beacon, the last two of which as the Sports Editor. Ryan also spent last three years at Volquest providing strong Tennessee baseball coverage of Tony Vitello's resurgent program. While the bulk of Ryan's responsibilities involved beat coverage and writing, he also recorded podcasts for both the Beacon and Volquest. Did we leave out the part about Ryan interning for the Smokies? Ryan's work ethic, versatility, and strong writing skills are but three of the reasons why Vol Nation will be hearing from Ryan for years to come.