Notre Dame's anger management has Irish on the brink of College World Series berth
Notre Dame baseball coach Link Jarrett is a big proponent of anger management.
Just not the conventional type.
Seething from a narrow, error-filled loss to No. 7 seed Mississippi State in Saturday’s NCAA Starkville Super Regional, the 10th-seeded Irish stayed mad and got even by embracing their ire and channeling their emotions into a dominant 9-1 response Sunday night at Dudy Noble Field.
“You can learn from the mistakes and come out and be mad,” said Jarrett, his team now 27 outs away from the third College World Series berth in school history, with a winner-take-all game 3 Monday night (7 EDT; ESPN2) in Starkville, Miss.
“It’s just the way (the ND players) are,” Jarrett said. “They've tasted success. Unsuccessful-looking baseball makes them upset, and they seem to harness that and move forward and apply some of that focus to the next task they have.
“Come play mad and angry. You're not going to shake that off. So don’t try to shake that off. Learn from it. Process it. And let that frustration try to focus you.”
Junior lefty Aidan Tyrell gave the Fighting Mad Irish (34-12) 7⅓ strong innings on the mound. Shortstop Zack Prajzner moved up in the order three spots and responded with three more hits. And Jack Brannigan and David LaManna homered to truncate Mississippi State’s school-record postseason home win streak at nine games.
“They’re good, they’re well-coached and they’re hot,” offered Mississippi State coach Chris Lemonis of the Irish, who have homered 19 times and scored 67 runs in five postseason games so far.
“We’ve got to match them,” Lemonis said. “(Saturday) we matched them. We've got to do that (Monday).”
Notre Dame on Monday night will send their third straight left-handed starter to the mound, Will Mercer (4-2, 4.53 ERA), against a Mississippi State lineup that’s 11-8 this season against lefty starters and 44-16 overall.
Monday’s survivor will join Texas, Arizona, Vanderbilt, Tennessee, Stanford, NC State and the winner of Monday’s elimination game between Virginia and Dallas Baptist in Omaha, Neb., beginning Saturday.
If the Irish are able to pull it off, there will be at least one familiar face in the eight-team College World Series field for Jarrett.
His son, J.T., is a senior infielder for unseeded NC State, which rebounded from a 21-2 Super Regional opening loss to No. 1 seed Arkansas to take the next two games, including Sunday’s 3-2 clincher in Fayetteville, Ark.
“My wife’s up in the top row, section 209 crying.” coach Jarrett said. “(J.T.) was on second base at one point, and they flashed the game on the scoreboard. I think it was a 2-2 game, and I think it was the first time in my career I actually looked at the scoreboard to see what was happening.
“We were up 8-1. That's a moment, to think that you’re playing and coaching a game of this magnitude and your son was involved in the winner-take-all game. You can not draw this up. It’s fairy tale-like stuff.
“My wife said, ‘I’m coming to your game, because if they (the Wolfpack) win, I’m going to Omaha. And if they lose, I don’t want to be there anyway.’ So she was here. That was her decision.”
A Dudy Noble Stadium crowd of 13,971 — a few short of the NCAA Super Regional record 14,385 that took in Saturday’s game — was lathered up from the start Sunday evening, and with good reason. The Diamond Dawgs were the designated visiting team in game 2, and two batters in, Mississippi State had a lead.
Rowdey Jordan smacked the first pitch he saw from Tyrell for a triple, and SEC Player of the Year Tanner Allen followed with a deep fly ball that scored Jordan on a sac fly.
But Tyrell (5-1) — a 6-foot, 165-pounder from the same high school that produced Rudy (Joliet, Ill., Catholic) — settled in and shut down the Diamond Dawgs until power righty Alex Rao relieved with one out in the eighth to finish the job.
It was just the third time in 60 games this season Mississippi State scored as little as one run.
In his last five appearances, covering 26 ⅔ innings, Tyrell has a 1.34 ERA. On Sunday, he allowed five hits and walked three while tying his career high in strikeouts with six.
“The first pitch of the game was center cut, and Rowdey throttled it,” Jarrett said. “And after that, he mixed. The slider was down and good. He mixed in his changeup, controlled the running game.
“If you’ve never seen us play, that was us playing a good game.”
Mississippi State’s lead was short-lived. The Irish loaded the bases against lefty starter and loser Christian MacLeod (6-5) with one out in the bottom of the first, on a hit batsmen, a walk and then a single by Niko Kavadas.
Carter Putz struck out on three straight pitches, but Prajzner legged out an infield hit on an excuse-me swing that easily scored Ryan Cole. But Jared Miller hustled in too, all the way from second base for a 2-1 Irish lead.
“This time of year, when somebody gets a little bit hot, it’s good to get them involved,” Jarrett said of moving Prajzner from the No. 9 hole to the sixth spot in the order.
The Irish shortstop is 6-for-8 in the series with six RBIs and three runs scored.
The Irish tacked on four more runs in the fourth when Putz scored on an error and new No. 9 hitter, catcher David LaManna, followed with a three-run shot to left field — his fifth home run of the season.
Not long after Brannigan hit a moon shot in the sixth to left field with Prajzner aboard for an 8-1 Notre Dame command, a distinctly audible “Let’s Go Irish” chant wafted through the stadium.
“They’re hungry for it.” Jarrett said “The fans, the parents — people are hungry to see us play on this stage and play the way we played today on this stage.
“So it was great. I actually heard it, and then I heard 13,000 cowbells try to stifle it out. It was a fun combination.”
Follow ND Insider Eric Hansen on Twitter: @ehansenNDI