With a 5-1 loss to Texas A&M on Tuesday, Notre Dame’s 2022 baseball season officially came to an end.
It was the end of one of the most historic campaigns in the program’s history, as they reached the College World Series for only the third time. Although there have been downs along the way, the ups have largely overshadowed them.
REGULAR SEASON RACE
The season has started strong for the Fighting Irish. An 11-1 record in 12 games ranked them No. 1 in two of college baseball’s six major polls, giving them the top spot in any poll for the first time since 2001.
They would then struggle during ACC play, as a three-game sweep at the hands of Louisville knocked Notre Dame off the top of the standings. The Irish would have a Jekyll and Hyde-like season in conference play, as two weekends after being swept by the Cardinals, they went on the road and then swept No. 5 Florida State in three games in Tallahassee .
They then swept Clemson, got swept by Duke and swept Wake Forest on consecutive weekends, continuing their inconsistencies in ACC games.
When conference play ended, Notre Dame sported a 16-11 record, earning the No. 4 seed in the conference tournament. They would advance to the ACC Tournament Semifinals before losing to North Carolina.
With a 35-14 record and plenty of marquee wins on the resume, it looked like Notre Dame was poised to earn a national top-16 seed and host a regional round of the NCAA Tournament.
The tournament selection committee thought otherwise, however, and sent the Irish to the Statesboro Regional, which was hosted by No. 16 Georgia Southern. This meant that if Notre Dame was going to win the regional title, they would more than likely have to travel to No. 1 Tennessee for the super regional.
The decision not to host the Irish was shocking, but it ultimately served as motivation for the race the team was about to embark on.
Traveling to The Peach State to start the tournament, Notre Dame picked up a win over Texas Tech in Game 1 of the regional. He then knocked out the host Eagles in a dramatic 6-4 game to advance to the Championship game. After Texas Tech defeated Georgia Southern in a knockout game, the Irish would once again defeat the Red Raiders to claim a second consecutive regional championship.
“The balance, the composure with which we shot and the way our team defended was outstanding in every way,” Notre Dame coach Link Jarrett said after the regional.
Tennessee took care of business in their home region, setting up a super regional clash between the Irish and the Volunteers.
Few expected Tennessee to lose the series, as the Vols had been the top team in college baseball for most of the season. That didn’t faze Notre Dame players heading to Knoxville, though.
“If I was them, I would be a little scared,” starting outfielder Ryan Cole said before the super regional. “I think we are a very dangerous team.”
The Irish backed up Cole’s words in Knoxville, winning Game 1, 8-6, on the strength of four homers. They would, however, lose Game 2 of the series, 12-4, to set up a deciding Game 3 with a College World Series berth on the line.
In what is arguably the biggest game in program history, the veteran-laden Irishman made a comeback for the ages. Graduated senior catcher David LaManna hit a two-run home run in the seventh inning to tie the game at three, then fellow senior Jack Brannigan uncorked a moonshot to left field on the next at-bat to put Notre Dame ahead, stunning the Tennessee crowd.
Three more points fell in the eighth frame to put the Irish up 7-3. Meanwhile, freshman Jack Findlay dominated out of the bullpen, pitching five shutout innings – including a double play to end the game – to lead Notre Dame to a stunning upset, qualifying for the CWS for the first time since 2002.
“We’ve always been confident,” LaManna said days after beating Tennessee. “Even last weekend we were going in that confidence. To the outside world, it may have looked like an upheaval. But here we knew that we always had the ability to win within us. So, I don’t know if the confidence continues to grow or if it stays where it has been since the beginning of the year.
Riding on a lot of momentum in the College World Series, Notre Dame was able to win its opener against Texas, 7-3. Senior graduate John Michael Bertrand, senior Alex Rao and Findlay combined to snuff out a strong Longhorns offense, holding them off without an extra hit for the first time this season.
Unfortunately for the Irish, it would be their last victory of the season.
Notre Dame has struggled offensively in its last two CWS contests, as Oklahoma’s Cade Horton and Texas A&M’s Nathan Dettmer pitched some of the best games of their respective seasons against the Irish. Horton pitched six innings, allowing two runs and striking out 11 batters in a 6-2 Sooners win, while Dettmer went seven shutout innings, allowing just two hits and striking out six in Tuesday’s playoff game. .
“I wish we could get that same group of guys back out there and give them another shot,” Jared Miller said after the season ended on Tuesday. “But we’ve come a long way and it’s been a fun ride. I’m sure I’ll think about it once I’ve dealt with that. But I wouldn’t rather be on the pitch with anyone else.”
Despite a 41-17 season and an appearance on CWS, many question marks surround the future of the Notre Dame program.
The 2022 roster included eight grads and seven seniors, including eight of the nine CWS batting order spots (Brannigan, a junior, was the only non-senior). Replacing nearly all of the team’s production on the pitch will be huge for the 2023 season, along with the loss of key pitchers in Bertrand, Rao and Austin Temple.
Another important factor for next year and beyond is whether Jarrett will remain as head coach. He revitalized the Irish program during his three seasons at South Bend, but the Florida State alum has been linked – no pun intended – with the head coach’s opening at his alma mater ever since. that it became available a few weeks ago.
With many moving parts in the Notre Dame program, it will be interesting to see if they can maintain the momentum they have built over the past three years.