Link Jarrett: Notre Dame has stressed winning Sunday's 'last hour'

Al Lesar
Special to the Tribune
Tennessee baseball coach Tony Vitello and Notre Dame baseball coach Link Jarrett shake hands after Tennessee loss to Notre Dame in the NCAA baseball Super Regional championship game in Knoxville, Tenn. on Sunday, June 12, 2022.

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – As soon as David LaManna’s slicing line drive found its way over the right field fence, Notre Dame baseball coach Link Jarrett glanced at the scoreboard.

Not for the score. Or the situation.

He wanted to know the time of day: 3:06.

“All season long I’ve talked about how important the last hour of the game on Sunday is,” said Jarrett. “I can’t stress enough how important the last hour of the game can be.”

The Irish (40-15) dominated the last hour of their 7-3 victory over Tennessee (57-9) in the championship game of the NCAA Baseball Super Regional. The reward for beating the No. 1 team in the nation twice on its home field is a spot among the top eight teams in the College World Series in Omaha.

Notre Dame trailed 3-1 heading into the seventh. Jarrett was not ready to panic.

“We have been able to absorb some jabs,” said Jarrett. “We can take a few of those, but no knock-out blows: 3-1 is OK, 8-1 is a knockout.

“Our at-bats in the seventh inning were phenomenal. We’re facing a Major League-caliber arm (Tennessee’s Chase Burns). We still had time to calibrate things.”

“Winning the last hour of Sunday, the last three innings, is something we always talk about,” said Jack Brannigan, who followed LaManna’s blast with the go-ahead homer.

Notre Dame's Jack Brannigan (9) celebrates after hitting a homer that put the Fighting Irish in the lead at the top of the seventh inning during the NCAA Knoxville Super Regionals between Tennessee and Notre Dame at Lindsey Nelson Stadium in Knoxville, Tennessee on Sunday, June 12, 2022.

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►Game 3:Notre Dame punches ticket to College World Series with upset of top-ranked Tennessee

►Game 2:On brink of first trip to CWS in two decades, Notre Dame can't close out top-ranked Tennessee

►Game 1:How Notre Dame came out swinging in Game 1 upset of No. 1 Tennessee in NCAA Super Regional

“That last hour is important to us,” said LaManna.

Jarrett allowed himself to think back several weeks ago when the 2002 team, the last Notre Dame team to play in the World Series, gathered for a reunion. Paul Mainieri, who coached that team, was a great resource.

“Coach Mainieri taught me what it was like to coach at Notre Dame,” Jarrett said. “The academic demands these guys have; and the travel; the indoor practice. How to look at it as a positive.”

As he sat back, soaked in the media attention and digested his team’s victory, Jarrett was able to find some perspective.

“I have a feeling of almost calmness and gratitude,” he said. “I didn’t know how I would feel. I knew how I felt as a player (earning three bids as a shortstop at Florida State). That calmness of feeling it for (the players), that they did it, I’ll never forget it.”