2022 College World Series: Notre Dame couldn't build on Omaha momentum, and they're done
OMAHA, Neb. — The first day of summer turned out to be the last day of the Notre Dame baseball season.
It all started 123 days earlier — on Feb. 18 in Deland, Florida with a 17-2 win over Manhattan. The goal for this veteran Irish team was to get to College World Series for the first time since 2002. Nobody expected Notre Dame to do it, but it did. The next goal became to win the program’s first national championship.
Texas A&M, and before that, Oklahoma, had other ideas. Notre Dame never could build off an opening-game win over Texas. On Tuesday, it lost a consecutive game for the first time since late April.
► Highlights from College World Series Game 3: Notre Dame baseball falls to Texas A&M in 2022 College World Series
A 5-1 win by Texas A&M dismissed Notre Dame (41-17) for good. Here are three thoughts from that game.
► Eventually, the emotions take over
If you’re a veteran team like Notre Dame, you want to keep believing that there’s still plenty of time to get something done. To get runners in scoring position. To score some runs. Heck, on Tuesday, to just get a hit. Even down as big as the Irish were down.
You want to believe all that for everything these guys have done, this season, last season, they were going to get it going. Eventually, though, human nature kicks in and you start thinking about how close the end is near.
It’s the sixth inning. Then the seventh. Then the eighth. Before you know it, it’s the ninth and it’s all over. For a lot of these guys, it’s over for the last time in an Irish uniform. They took this program to places the last two years that nobody figured it could go. Including to Omaha.
With each passing half inning Tuesday, the pressure to play a game they’ve played since kids mounted. They couldn’t get that one big hit. They couldn’t score. The more they couldn’t, the more they knew the score.
Only six more out. Then three.
That includes head coach Link Jarrett. He kept doing what he did until the end, but in the back of his mind, he also had to think, if only for a moment, about how far this program’s come under his watch, and where he might be going. He’s the hottest name in college coaching right now. It will be a coup for Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick to retain Jarrett for a fourth season.
Jarrett’s done so much in his first three years at Notre Dame, but he might’ve also done enough.
► Someone forgot to wake ND's bats
Two days after Notre Dame struck out 14 times in the loss to Oklahoma, you expected the bats would be active and awake early for the afternoon elimination game.
They weren’t Tuesday’s game started at 1:07 p.m., and it wasn’t until 2:28 — with one out in the bottom of the fourth — that the Irish registered their first hit against a pitcher (Nathan Dettmer) that wasn’t even around for that long (1.2 innings) in the Friday opener loss to Oklahoma.
How desperate were the Irish to maybe get a hit and a second runner on in the same inning? Two hitters after David LaManna singled, designated hitter Jack Zyska squared to try and bunt for a base hit.
With two outs.
It was a snowball effect for the Irish. The deeper the game got, the more pressure they put on themselves to get something going. Anything. Even in the fifth, when Notre Dame fell behind 4-0, it already felt like it was getting late.
While the Irish labored for a hit, much less one of an extra-base variety, it was batting practice for the Aggies, especially in the top of the fifth. Trevor Werner led off with a homer to left before Jack Moss followed with a double to right.
Trailing 5-0, the Irish seemingly had their best chance to get something going in the bottom of the sixth with hitters 2, 3 and 4 up. If Notre Dame was going to climb back into it, that had to be the inning.
The Irish were retired in order. You could feel all the air collectively flow out of the third-base dugout.
Notre Dame finished with four hits.
► Early trouble spelled trouble
That third inning was a big ask of freshman reliever Jack Findlay, no matter how good he’s been in postseason. And he had been really good. But he struggled Tuesday, not necessarily all his fault.
Starter Liam Simon tumbled into trouble for the second straight inning in the top of the third. He was able to work out of a jam in the second, which ended with a strikeout and a scream and a flex from Simon. He couldn’t do it again in the third, and was done after two innings and 48 pitches.
Enter Findlay for the first time in the Series. He was handed bases loaded, nobody out and the 2-3-4 hitters due up. Yikes. Findlay struck out first baseman Jack Moss and had Dylan Rock seemingly retired on a groundout. But third baseman’s Jack Brannigan’s throwing error — his second in three innings — allowed two runs to score and the two other runners — including Rock — to move up into scoring position.
Texas A&M added a sacrifice fly to make it 3-0 and could’ve had more, but ran its way into an out to end the inning. It had more chances later. It capitalized.
Follow South Bend Tribune and NDInsider columnist Tom Noie on Twitter: @tnoieNDI. Contact: (574) 235-6153.