OMAHA, Neb. – Notre Dame beat No. 9 Texas 7-3 Friday night to give the program its first win at the College World Series in exactly 20 years. Notre Dame’s last win in college baseball’s premiere event came 20 years ago to the day. Notre Dame not only hasn’t played at the CWS since the last Irish team to reach the pinnacle in 2002, it’s barely even sniffed the NCAA Tournament in the past 16 years.
Head coach Link Jarrett has led the Irish to back to back NCAA berths, with at least a Super Regional both years Notre Dame’s last two coaches combined for just one NCAA Regional in the 13 seasons prior to Jarrett’s arrival. But don’t tell Jarrett his 2022 Irish are making a national “statement”.
“I think the statement is made from everybody else, because we feel like we’ve done this for the better part of two seasons,” Jarrett said after Friday’s win. Friday’s winning pitcher, John Michael Bertrand had s simple response to questions about the Irish as underdogs.
“The message is to go 1-0. By any means, go 1-0,” Bertrand said. The lefty graduate student improved to 10-3 after allowing 3 runs in 5.1 innings in his first start in Omaha. STRIKE FIRST, STRIKE HARD Find more sports news, plus coverage from Sports Illustrated.
The game’s second batter, second baseman Jared Miller, got the scoring in the game started with an opposite field home run. Miller’s fifth home run hit the top of the right field wall and bounced into the Notre Dame bullpen. “When you come out of the corners in a boxing match and land the first blow, it’s really exciting,” Jarrett said of getting on the scoreboard almost immediately.
EXPERIENCE COUNTS Bertrand is the highest profile of Notre Dame’s old baseball team. Like Bertrand, four Irish position players are grad students as well, while four other position players are seniors. It’s one of the most experienced teams in the country. “It’s huge,” Jarrett said of the importance of his veteran group.
“They know what we’re trying to do.” It’s not just Notre Dame. There’s been a wealth of older players in college baseball over the past couple seasons, due to the extra year of eligibility granted by the NCAA after the pandemic. “This is probably the best college baseball we’ll ever see because of the age of the guys,” Jarrett noted.
TAMING THE TITANIC “The Hispanic Titanic”, Ivan Melendez, had a quiet night for the Longhorns. The Texas first baseman leads the nation with 32 home runs and came into the night with 94 RBIs, but he was 1-4 with just a single and a strikeout against the Irish. It was also the first game this season in which Texas didn’t have an extra base hit.
The Longhorns are fourth in the nation with 128 home runs this season. “He’s not gonna go 4-4 every night,” said Texas head coach David Pierce. “They did a good job of pitching to him.” “This is a stadium, you can throw up fastballs,” said Jarrett. “You can’t do that in Knoxville (where Notre Dame upset No. 1 Tennessee in Super Regionals).”
THE 2002 CWS CONNECTION Javi Sanchez, Steve Sollman, Brian Stavisky, Matt Strickroth, Joe Thaman and Paul O’Toole were among the members of Notre Dame’s 2002 College World Series team who made their way to Omaha to cheer their alma mater. 2002 head coach Paul Mainieri and the 2002 Irish pitching coach, Brian O’Connor, were also in attendance together at Charles Schwab Field.
Mainieri retired last year after leading LSU to a 2009 national championship win against Texas. O’Connor has been the head coach at Virginia for the past 19 seasons. He led the Cavaliers to a 2015 national championship. MORE FIGHTING IRISH CWS CONNECTIONS Two other Fighting Irish alums are in Omaha this week.
Auburn athletic director Allen Greene (ND ’98) and Auburn senior associate AD Brant Ust (ND ’01) made the trip with the Tiger baseball team. The two were teammates who played for Mainieri. Auburn plays its CWS opener against Ole Miss Saturday night at 7pm EST.