2022 NCAA Tournament Knoxville Super Regional Preview

Image credit: Luc Lipcius (Danny Parker/Four Seam Images)


Coach: Tony Vitello

Postseason history: Fourth super regional appearance (second straight). Seeking sixth trip to Omaha and second straight.

Postseason route: No. 1 seed in Knoxville Regional. Went 3-0, defeating Georgia Tech in regional final.

Scouting report (anonymous coach breaks down the Volunteers)

“They’re real. Their whole weekend rotation got invited to Team USA. I know our league, the top third wasn’t as strong as it has been but talk about balance. There’s no weakness. They’re a hard team to go beat. You need the ball to bounce your way or help to beat them. It’s real stuff on the mound. Their offensive numbers might be a little inflated because of the ballpark but one of the most impressive things I’ve seen is they’re leading the nation in ERA. Maybe their home run total is inflated because of the ballpark, but at the same time they’re leading the nation in ERA.

“They’ve got nine guys with double-digit home runs. Who scares you the most? That’s a hard question to answer. If you say Beck or Gilbert, Lipscomb is like, ‘I hit 21 homers.’ Ortega quietly has 17 and Lipcius has walked 58 times and hit 16 homers. When Blake Burke only has 21 starts or Christian Moore only 28, there’s some real length to the lineup.

“They’ve lost seven games this year so they’re not unbeatable, but you need a break. You need some help. You need them to give you baserunners or the ball to bounce your way a little bit.

“(The starting pitchers’) strikeout-to-walk rate is goofy. They all have stuff, high-end velocity, above-average secondary pitches and they all smother you with strikes. Usually in college baseball, maybe a guy has high-end stuff but he’s erratic or if they have velo they don’t have secondaries. But all three of them are ahead in the count all the time with above-average secondary pitches.

“It’s an embarrassment of riches. What I like about their pen is they do have so much stuff but then they have older guys who know how to pitch. Redmond Walsh has been there forever. He’s not going to dazzle you, but he’s pitched in 26 games and has seven saves. Will Maybrey was as effective as anyone we’ve seen. We’re not even talking about Blade Tidwell or Ben Joyce. They have experience, different looks, left, right, stuff, pitchability. They’re a team that can go to the bullpen in the third inning and there not be a dropoff. That’s really rare where you can go to (the) pen that early and not have to sneak someone in for four or five outs later.

“(Lindsey Nelson Stadium is) rowdy. They all feed off each other—fans and players. It’s as rowdy of an environment as there is in college baseball. Notre Dame is going to be in for a challenge to just stay focused on the game. It’s got to help that Notre Dame played in Starkville last year, but Knoxville is just different. In Starkville, they applaud the other team if they make a good play.  That’s not happening in Knoxville.

“They’re not slowing down anytime soon if you look at what they have coming back next year, but you can coach for 30 years and not have another team like this. Not taking anything away from Tony or Josh (Elander) or Frank (Anderson), but this is a perfect storm to have this much talent on one roster. I’d almost feel bad for Tony if they don’t win it all.”

Projected lineup

C: Evan Russell
1B Luc Lipcius
2B: Jorel Ortega
3B: Trey Lipscomb
SS: Cortland Lawson
LF: Seth Stephenson
CF: Drew Gilbert
RF: Jordan Beck
DH: Blake Burke
SP: Chase Dollander
SP: Chase Burns
SP: Drew Beam
RP: Blade Tidwell
RP: Redmond Walsh



Notre Dame

Coach: Link Jarrett

Postseason history: Third super regional appearance (second straight). Seeking third trip to Omaha and first since 2002.

Postseason route: No. 2 seed in Statesboro Regional. Went 3-0, beating Texas Tech in regional final.

Scouting report (anonymous coach breaks down the Fighting Irish)

“They’re so veteran, such an experienced group. I think experience plays such a big factor in our game but especially in the postseason. You look at their lineup and it’s all four- and five-year guys except (Jack) Brannigan, who is arguably their most tooled-up guy. Look at what they went through last year going through Mississippi State and how that core group has stayed together, it’s a well-oiled machine that can beat you in many different ways. If the venue is playing to home runs they can do that, if not they can hit and run, drag. They do so many things. They don’t beat themselves. They’re older, wiser, just smart baseball players.

“I don’t think (losing Niko Kavadas has sapped their power). Some of the guys are going to have the potential to hurt you. When you look at (Ryan) Cole, (Brooks) Coetzee, (Carter) Putz, Brannigan, they can still the hit ball out of the yard. It’s the ability to grind out at-bats instead of just mindlessly swinging. They’ll hit behind runners and hit and run. They can capitalize on mistakes. This is a more potent situation because if you’re a coach in the other dugout and don’t know if they’ll steal, hit and run, push and drag or run into a HR. Those are the worst offenses to face.

“(John Michael) Bertrand gives you that comfort, that quality start, he goes deep in ballgames, shortens roles on the back end. And the back end of the bullpen has stuff. (Alex) Rao and (Liam) Simon are in the mid-to-upper 90s. You put them in short spurts, and it plays up. They’re getting milage out of other guys, like (Jack) Findlay who they’ve had as a No. 3 or 4 starter or a tough lefty out of (the) bullpen. The experience of (Aidan) Tyrell—I felt like every guy they threw against us had 3-5 years of college experience. These guys have all been through the grinder. Whether they’re piecing together games with guys going one time through the lineup or with matchups, they’ve got weapons for bullpen management. Look at the numbers, they don’t beat themselves. They’re very experienced, fundamentally sound, coached as well as any ballclub can be coached. That starts at the top but they have great assistants, too.

“What you don’t want to fall into (against Bertrand) is falling behind in the count where he’s expanding the zone and getting you to chase. You have to control your at-bat, control your counts when you have something in the zone—he’s not going to walk you, he’ll attack you—have to capitalize on quality pitches you do get to hit.

“They make the routine play (defensively). It’s not the flash, they’re not trying to overthink it with outrageous shifts. It’s just great positioning, solid fundamentals, efficient baseball.”

Projected lineup

C: David LaManna
1B: Carter Putz
2B: Jack Penney
3B: Jack Brannigan
SS: Zack Prajzner
LF: Ryan Cole
CF: Spencer Myers
RF: Brooks Coetzee
DH: Jack Zyska
SP: John Michael Bertrand
SP: Austin Temple
SP: Aidan Tyrell
RP: Ryan McLinskey
RP: Alex Rao


Friday, 6 p.m. ET (ESPN2)

Saturday, 2 p.m. ET (ESPN)

Sunday, TBD


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