Aidan Tyrell, Notre Dame Cruise Past Mississippi State To Force Game 3
Alex Rao first picked up a baseball in Notre Dame’s right-field bullpen during the second inning.
A 1-0 Mississippi State lead two pitches into the game and a one-out single in the second had Irish coach Link Jarrett thinking Sunday’s Super Regional Game 2 might have to be a bullpen effort.
Starter Aidan Tyrell, though, changed the tune and sat Rao down. Tyrell collected himself and struck out five hitters in a six at-bat span between the second and third innings. Not until the eighth inning of a 9-1 win over Mississippi State were Rao’s services finally required.
“We just needed him to be the cool, calm, collected Aidan Tyrell, and that’s what he was,” Jarrett said.
When Tyrell put a man on base, he often worked around it. He diffused situations that may have been one more baserunner away from ending his day and bringing in Rao. He induced enough early contact and weak contact.
“Try to get ahead, stay in the zone, keep that pitch count down and let the defense work,” Tyrell said.
And with the help of some early heads-up baserunning and a couple home runs, he kept No. 10 seed Notre Dame’s season alive and forced a winner-take-all Game 3 Monday night (7 p.m. ET, ESPN2/ESPNU). The Irish (34-12) can reach the College World Series for the first time since 2002 with one more victory over the No. 7 Bulldogs (44-16.)
Tyrell wasn’t dominant, but he was crafty and efficient. He kept Mississippi State hitters off-balance, relying on a mix of largely fastballs and sliders. He struck out three straight hitters in the third inning, ending each at-bat on a slider. His six strikeouts tied a season high.
Tyrell threw just 13 total pitches in the sixth and seventh innings, vanquishing any Notre Dame fans’ thoughts of a third time through the order labor. In two NCAA tournament starts, Tyrell has thrown 15.1 innings and allowed just three runs on 13 hits.
“He’s a heck of a pitcher,” Mississippi State outfielder Tanner Allen said. “He mixed really well. For us left-handers, he kept us off-balance with the slider. And he threw the fastball when we weren’t expecting it. He had a great night.”
No one would have known he felt his slider was off when he was throwing it in pregame warmups.
“In the bullpen, it honestly wasn’t very good,” Tyrell said. “[Catcher] Dave [LaManna] told me to just keep throwing it. That’s what I did, and I was able to find it in the first couple innings.”
Tyrell left the game in the eighth inning after walking two of the first three hitters. He did so with an eight-run lead and the game all but decided. All told, he allowed one run on five hits, three walks and struck out six.
Save for the first inning, Tyrell pitched with a lead the entire game. The cushion grew as his pitch count climbed.
Notre Dame filched the lead with its patented aggressive baserunning. Shortstop Zack Prajzner’s bases-loaded swinging bunt single in the first inning scored two runs when Mississippi State pitcher Christian MacLeod threw wild to first base. Notre Dame infielder Jared Miller never stopped running from second base and scored on the play.
The Irish took a 3-1 lead in the fourth when outfielder Brooks Coetzee’s sac bunt scored designated hitter Carter Putz from second due to an error on the throw to first.
One batter later, LaManna sent a 1-0 curveball into the field seats for a three-run home run that made the score 6-1. It was his third homer of the NCAA tournament. He connected on just two during the regular season. He batted out of the No. 9 spot in the order, which has given Notre Dame four hits, two home runs and eight RBI through two games.
“The capability of the guys at the bottom, it exists when they swing at good pitches,” Jarrett said. “They have the capability to hit some balls out.”
For the second straight start, Notre Dame hung at least four runs on a projected top-100 MLB draft pick and did so without an RBI from Golden Spikes Award semifinalist Niko Kavadas. The Irish tagged MacLeod with seven runs (six earned) in five-plus innings. They played an errorless game on defense a day after committing a season-high four of them in a 9-8 loss.
“If you’ve never seen our team play, that was us playing a good game,” Jarrett said.
Good enough, in fact, to send Mississippi State fans home an inning early. A hush enveloped Dudy Noble Field for the final couple innings. A “Let’s Go Irish” chant was clearly audible through the TV in the eighth.
Even Jarrett heard it from the dugout.
“They’re hungry for it,” Jarrett said. “People are hungry to see us play on this stage and play the way we did today on this stage.”
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