KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Carter Putz hit a two-run home run in the first inning, Notre Dame matched its season-high with four home runs, and the Fighting Irish beat No. 1 seed Tennessee 8-6 on Friday night in the opener of the Knoxville Super Regional.
This super regional pitted college baseball’s winningest programs since the start of the 2020 season by winning percentage with the Vols first and Notre Dame second.
Notre Dame moved a win away from advancing to the College World Series by scoring every run off a homer against the nation’s best home-run hitting team. The Irish ranked 78th nationally with 68 home runs.
Jared Miller made it 3-0 with a home run in the second in his first at-bat this postseason after playing only defense during the regional.
Jack Zyska put Notre Dame up 5-0 with a two-run homer in the third as Tennessee pitcher Blade Tidwell matched the three home runs he allowed through 36 innings this season. Notre Dame kept slugging, and Jack Brannigan’s three-run homer gave the Irish an 8-1 lead for the biggest deficit Tennessee has faced this season.
This was the Vols’ first loss in seven games in the super regionals and first in Knoxville after 12 straight NCAA postseason wins.
Earlier on Friday, No. 8 national seed East Carolina moved within one win of reaching the College World Series for the first time with a 13-7 win over Texas. East Carolina, playing a super regional on its Greenville, North Carolina, campus for the first time, broke open the game with a five-run eighth inning.
East Carolina has never made the College World Series in 31 previous NCAA tournament appearances. No team has fallen short so many times in the tournament.
The Pirates won for the 22nd time in 23 games. But coach Cliff Godwin hasn’t forgotten about 2016, the year his team won Game 1 of its super regional at Texas Tech and then lost the next two.
“I’m taking it day by day,” said Godwin, now 2-6 in four super regional appearances. “This has been a great group for me to be a part of and I’m not going to look too far ahead.”
A record crowd of 5,723 showed up at Clark-LeClair Stadium and made its presence felt.
“I definitely think the score would have been different if we had been playing at Texas,” Godwin said. “I’m thankful we can play at our home field and play in front of all our fans. They’ve been waiting a long time for this, going to back to when I played here.”
Oklahoma is on the cusp of making the final eight in the NCAA baseball tournament for the first time since 2010 after a 5-4 win over No. 4 Virginia Tech. The Sooners, in the best-of-three supers for the first time since 2013, won for the eighth time in nine games.
Oklahoma jumped on Virginia Tech starter Griffin Green in Blacksburg, Virginia. Green lasted just one inning plus two batters for his shortest start of the season, and OU was up 5-0 in the sixth.
The Hokies tried to come back, with Carson Jones and Jack Hurley each hitting two-run homers, but OU right fielder John Spikerman made a diving catch of Gavin Cross’ fly to end the game and put the Sooners within a win of playing in the CWS in Omaha, Nebraska, next week.
“It’s just one more,” OU’s Kendall Pettis said. “We’re not really trying to focus on Omaha or whatever. We just have to take it pitch by pitch, step by step.”
I GOT IT, YOU GOT IT, NOBODY’S GOT IT
East Carolina was clinging to an 8-7 lead in the eighth inning when Alec Makarewicz led off the bottom half with a home run that probably would have been a flyout had it not been for a mixup between Texas left fielder Eric Kennedy and center fielder Douglas Hodo III.
Kennedy appeared set to make the catch near the wall, but Hodo cut in front of him and the ball tipped off Hodo’s glove and went into the stands.
“I knew it was going to be a wall scraper,” Makarewicz said. “Luckily the fans were screaming as loud as they were and [Kennedy and Hodo] jumped up and hit each other and it went over.”
Godwin said the crowd noise definitely was a factor.
“I’ve coached a lot of places and there are more people, but our fans are on top of you,” he said. “They’re on top of you at the stadium, on top of the dugout, all the way around the outfield. It’s just a special place to be able to host a regional and super regional. They’re really loud. It’s deafening.”
The play reminded Texas coach David Pierce of Carlos Martinez’s famous home run for Cleveland against Jose Canseco and the Texas Rangers in 1993. Canseco went to the wall and the ball bounced off his head and over the fence.
“It was like Canseco, except his glove, not his head,” Pierce said.
THE OL’ HEAVE HO
Tennessee All-SEC outfielder Drew Gilbert and pitching coach Frank Anderson were ejected in the fifth inning against Notre Dame, both for arguing balls and strikes with plate umpire Kellen Levy.
Gilbert stood with his mouth agape after Levy tossed him for turning around and colorfully disagreeing with a strike call. Anderson came out of the dugout to protest.
NCAA rules call for Gilbert, who came in batting a team-best .373, and Anderson to be suspended for Game 2.
The four other super regionals open Saturday: UConn (49-14) at No. 2 Stanford (45-15); Arkansas (41-19) at No. 10 North Carolina (42-20); Mississippi (35-22) at No. 11 Southern Mississippi (47-17); and No. 14 Auburn (40-19) at No. 3 Oregon State (47-16).
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