The overwhelming NCAA tournament favorite is done.
Notre Dame beat top-seeded Tennessee, 7-3 on Sunday to secure a 2-1 series win in the Knoxville Super Regional. With the win, the Fighting Irish advance to Omaha, Nebraska as one of the tournament’s final eight teams. The Volunteers, meanwhile, met a stunning end to their NCAA tournament short of the College World Series.
The magnitude of the upset was evident at the final out as Notre Dame players stormed the field in front of stands packed with Tennessee fans anticipating a sendoff to Omaha. Stunned Tennessee players could only watch from the dugout as Notre Dame players dogpiled onto the Lindsey Nelson Stadium pitching mound.
Curse of the No. 1 seed?
Tennessee’s loss extends a 21-season streak of No. 1 seeds failing to win the national championship. Miami in 1999 was the last No. 1 seed to claim the College World Series crown.
Tennessee is also the third-straight No. 1 seed to fall short of the College World Series, following Arkansas in 2021 and UCLA in 2019. The 2020 College World Series was canceled at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dominant Tennessee season falls painfully short
Tennessee entered NCAA tournament play armed with a roster full of MLB prospects including projected first-round picks Jordan Beck (OF), Drew Gilbert (OF) and Blade Tidwell (P) and 104-mph hurler Ben Joyce. Its 157 home runs were the most in the nation, 20 more than second-place Maryland.
It tallied a 53-7 record before tournament play, including a 34-3 record at home. It earned the No. 1 seed via a dominant run through the SEC that included its first SEC tournament title since 1995.
But Notre Dame put its College World Series plans in peril with an 8-6 win in Game 1 of the best-of-three series on Friday for Tennessee’s fourth home loss of the season. The Volunteers bounced back with a 12-4 win on Saturday to set up Sunday’s winner-take-all game.
Flights took charge early before Irish outburst
Tennessee struck first on Sunday with a Luc Lipcius solo home run to take a 1-0 lead in the first inning. It carried a 3-1 lead into seventh before Notre Dame took the lead with back-to-back home runs. Fifth-year catcher David LaManna tied the game at 3-3 with a two-run blast off of freshman starter Chase Burns. It was his second home run of the season.
Junior infielder Jack Brannigan followed up with a solo shot to take a 4-3 lead and end Burns’ day on the mound.
The Irish tacked on three more runs in the eighth inning to extend their lead to 7-3, which stood as the game’s final outcome. With the victory, Notre Dame advances to its third-ever College World Series and its first since 2002. It beat No. 1 overall seed Florida State that season in Super Regionals to punch its ticket to Omaha.
“The poise, the toughness of this group — I’ve never seen anything like it,” Notre Dame head coach Link Jarrett told ESPN after the game. “We’ve battled and fought for years to get to this moment. Just to watch the performance and the execution…I just can’t tell you enough how special those guys are.”
The Irish will face the winner between No. 8 seed East Carolina and No. 9 seed Texas at the College World Series.