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Baseball

Notre Dame prepares for College World Series opener against Texas

| Tuesday, June 14, 2022

This Friday, Notre Dame baseball will look to extend their postseason run, taking on Texas in their opening College World Series contest. Just looking at their uniforms, there are some obvious similarities between Notre Dame’s last opponent, Tennessee, and their next, as both teams sport “UT” abbreviations and orange coloring.

But the similarities between Texas and Tennessee run deeper than their branding. On the field, both teams will look to take down the Irish in the same way. Texas’ offense, as evidenced by their explosive 11-1 Super Regional-clinching win over Eastern Carolina, ranks alongside Tennessee as one of the best in the country.

The Longhorns’ team stats paint a simple picture. Texas is fourth in college baseball in home runs, eighth in scoring and second in total hits. The Longhorns are capable of generating offense both from power and small ball. Both their team slugging percentage and batting average rank in the top five nationally.

Part of that offensive excellence as a team comes from the fact that the Longhorns boast one of the most balanced lineups in college baseball. Seven of Texas’ nine hitters in Sunday’s starting lineup have hit 10 or more home runs this season. The first six hitters in the Longhorn’s order on Sunday had a batting average of above .300, and everyone in their order had an average of above .265. 

Their deep batting order is the reason Texas is capable of dominant offensive stretches, like their opening surge against East Carolina. There the Longhorns posted nine runs in just two innings. There are no holes in the Texas order, and every hitter is capable of getting on base and extending an inning. The Pirates eventually managed to slow the Longhorns down after the first two innings, but the damage had already been done. The nine-run cushion Texas had built made the game seem like a formality the rest of the way.

On the bright side for the Irish, Texas’ stellar offense means the formula for beating the Longhorns is the same one they used to take down the Volunteers: quality pitching and great defense. 

Notre Dame has built a reputation all year for being a strong defensive team, and that reputation provided the foundation for the Irish upset over the weekend. The Irish rank among the nation’s best in hits allowed per game and fielding percentage, stats that Notre Dame will need to win on Friday. 

When the Irish held Tennessee to six and three runs in games one and three respectively of the Super Regional, Notre Dame found a way to win. When the Volunteers pulled far ahead in a twelve-run outpouring in game two, the Irish couldn’t keep up. Such patterns will likely stay the same on Friday.

While Friday’s game is not a win-or-go-home situation for either team, both Irish head coach Link Jarrett and Texas head coach David Pierce are expected to send their aces to the mound for the opener in Omaha. The Longhorns have opened each new round of the postseason with lefty Pete Hansen on the hill. The redshirt sophomore boasts an impressive 11-2 record on the season. Hansen has seen over 100 innings of usage for Texas this season and has one of the best strikeout-to-walk ratios (6.05) in the nation. 

He’ll likely square off against graduate student John Michael Bertrand for the Irish. Bertrand leads Notre Dame’s staff of starters in most metrics, including ERA (2.69), strikeouts (107), total wins (9) and innings pitched (103.2). While it is possible graduate student Austin Temple gets the start on the mound for the Irish due to matchup reasons — eight of Texas’ nine hitters against Eastern Carolina bat righty, and Bertrand is a lefty — the All-ACC first-team ace seems like the obvious choice for a World Series opener.

Notre Dame and Texas will play Friday at Charles Schwab Field in Omaha, Nebraska. The exact time and broadcast information will be announced later in the week.

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