Tennessee eliminated from baseball playoffs by Notre Dame

The University of Tennessee has been widely hailed as the best college baseball team in a generation. But like so many top seeds over t...


The University of Tennessee has been widely hailed as the best college baseball team in a generation. But like so many top seeds over the years, the Volunteers couldn’t navigate the NCAA baseball playoffs and were eliminated without even qualifying for the eight-team University World Series.

The playoffs started well for Tennessee. After a 53-7 regular season and a Southeastern Conference title and No. 1 ranking, Tennessee was swept away by lesser competition in the early rounds.

But he met surprising opposition from Notre-Dame in the super regional, the round of 16 stage.

Notre Dame was one of the best unranked teams in the tournament, but they weren’t expected to beat a Tennessee team which had a home batting host and the best ERA in Division I. Tennessee also had the advantage of playing the best of three home series.

But in Game 1, Notre Dame hit home runs in each of the first three innings and took a 5-0 lead against Tennessee ace Blade Tidwell, then held on to win, 8-6. It was the first time in 20 years that Notre Dame had beaten the No. 1 team in the country.

Tennessee’s 12-4 win in Game 2 looked a lot more like fans expected. And Tennessee appeared to escape the series when it led, 3-1, in the seventh inning of the decider. But back-to-back homers in that inning gave Notre Dame a 4-3 lead, and the Fighting Irish took it to a final score of 7-3.

Blame it on baseball’s variance — or some sort of College World Series curse, if you will. No No. 1 seeded team has won the World Series since Miami in 1999. Tennessee is the third consecutive No. 1 seed to not even make the eight-team World Series, after Arkansas in 2021 and UCLA in 2019 (the 2020 tournament was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic).

“I think what should stay with our guys when time passes: they say time heals all wounds”, coach Tony Vitello said after losing the series. “I don’t know who ‘they’ are.”

“Fifty-seven is a lot,” he said of the team’s win total, including the playoffs. “A bunch of good kids. A few maniacs there.

Notre Dame returns to the College World Series for the first time in 20 years and the third time overall.

Softball’s own superteam Oklahoma had no such problems, capping a 59-3 season last week with a win at the Women’s College World Series.

Tennessee’s loss made No. 2 Stanford, who qualified for the College World Series with a 10-5 victory over Connecticut on Monday, the new favorite in Omaha. No. 3 Oregon State was also a possible contender, but the Beavers lost 4-3 to No. 14 Auburn on Monday night at home despite just three hits.

Many Tennessee players will go on to pursue professional careers: Three of them are slated to make the first round of the 2022 Major League Baseball Draft next month: Tidwell and outfielders Drew Gilbert and Jordan Beck.

But going pro won’t make them College World Series winners. And Tennessee will still be looking for its first title.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Tennessee eliminated from baseball playoffs by Notre Dame
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