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#pounditFriday, August 12, 2022

No. 1 Tennessee knocked out of college baseball postseason by Notre Dame

Tony Vitello holds up his fingers

Tennessee Head Coach Tony Vitello disputes a call at the NCAA Baseball Tournament Knoxville Regional at Lindsey Nelson Stadium in Knoxville, Tenn. on Friday, June 4, 2021. Kns Vols Regional Opener

Tennessee entered the postseason as the No. 1 seed in college baseball following a strong regular season that was capped with a win in the SEC Tournament. But the Vols’ season is ending in disappointment.

Tennessee (57-9) lost 7-3 to Notre Dame (40-15) on Sunday in Knoxville in Game 3 of their Super Regional to end their season. The Fighting Irish eliminated the Vols to advance to the College World Series in Omaha.

Though Tennessee looked like a machine in the SEC Tournament and then the Knoxville Regional, which they swept, they showed concerning signs immediately against Notre Dame.

Despite playing in front of a pumped-up crowd on Friday night at home, Tennessee fell behind 8-1 in the top of the fourth. They chipped away at the lead and lost 8-6, but dropping Game 1 of the series was a bad start. The Vols allowed four home runs in the game as pitchers Blade Tidwell and Will Mabrey struggled. Tennessee’s staff allowed 13 hits in the game.

The Vols came back and won Game 2 12-4 on Saturday to even the series. They got a strong start from Chase Dollander, and backed it up with 14 hits including four home runs.

But Tennessee just blew it in Game 3.

The Vols led 3-1 after six innings. That’s when their pitching fell apart. Notre Dame scored three in the 7th and three more in the 8th to break it open. They hit back-to-back home runs in the 7th for their first runs. In the 8th, they took advantage of a throwing error by third baseman Trey Lipscomb and added three unearned runs.

Even when given a break on a fielding error by Notre Dame’s pitcher on a bunt by Drew Gilbert in the bottom of the 8th, Gilbert gave the out right back by getting thrown out at second trying to advance on a ball in the dirt.

Tennessee ended the game without much of a fight, as the hit into a double play to end the game.

The Vols had a stacked team and great regular season. But they fell into the curse of being seeded No. 1 in the NCAA Tournament. Only one No. 1 team (Miami ’99) has won the College World Series as the No. 1 seed.

Why is that the case? Maybe you have to have such a good regular season record to get that No. 1 seed that you’ve already played your best ball before the postseason comes around. Baseball is a game of streaks, and maybe the teams that earn the No. 1 seed have peaked and streaked too early.

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