InsideNDSports - Notre Dame's CWS fade gives way to bigger questions about its future
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Notre Dame's CWS fade gives way to bigger questions about its future

Irish coach Link Jarrett talked of Notre Dame's future after a 5-1 loss to Texas A&M Tuesday in the College World Sereis, but will Jarrett be a part of that future>
Irish coach Link Jarrett talked of Notre Dame's future after a 5-1 loss to Texas A&M Tuesday in the College World Sereis, but will Jarrett be a part of that future> (Steven Branscombe, USA TODAY Sports Network)

The end Tuesday afternoon in Omaha was so unlike the rest of Notre Dame baseball’s enchanted run back into national relevance and beyond.

It made the quiet bats and the self-inflicted scars of a 5-1 College World Series elimination game loss by the unseeded Irish to 5 seed Texas A&M at Charles Schwab Field all the more surreal.

Facing the worst defensive team in the CWS field, the Irish (41-17) uncharacteristically struggled themselves in the field Tuesday with physical and mental errors, had their leadoff batter in the ninth picked off first base, and labored against a pitcher, in Nathan Dettmer, who brought a 13.94 ERA in three NCAA Tournament starts into the game.

“If there's a place you want to end it, it's obviously here,” Notre Dame coach Link Jarrett said. “How we ended it was tough. That hurts.”

But not nearly as much potentially as how the ND administration answers this question in the coming days and weeks: How bad does Notre Dame want to be good at baseball for the long haul?

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Jarrett (88-32 in three seasons) politely redirected questions about his own future into answers about what the Notre Dame program needs to not only sustain its reawakening, but to escalate it.

“I told our assistants, write down everything you saw, felt, think it takes to get over the hump,” Jarrett said. “This is when you really start to build your tactics on how to run things. So I'm doing it right now.”

Whether Jarrett is still around to oversee that by the time the College World Series crowns its champion Sunday or Monday or is shopping for a new house in his native Tallahassee, Fla., the blueprint to become a consistent NCAA Tourney team and a team capable of making CWS runs every few years, rather than every few decades, is the same.

It just might be someone other than Jarrett building out those ideas.

His alma mater, Florida State, fired one of Jarrett’s best friends and former Seminoles teammate, Mike Martin Jr., last Wednesday just three seasons after he succeeded his coaching icon father, Mike Martin.

It’s a move FSU doesn’t make if it doesn’t feel it has a shot at landing Jarrett, its 50-year-old former All-America shortstop.

“When your program's doing the right thing, you're going to have those distractions whether it's baseball, basketball, football,” Jarrett said. “And I tried with all I had not to go there in my mind. And it was difficult.

“But I wanted to know, when this thing either ended with a trophy or not, that they (the ND players) were the focus of what I was doing. And they're just phenomenal. Like, they're phenomenal human beings.”

If Jarrett does go, who replaces him matters in the big picture. How Notre Dame invests in upgrading facilities matters. How it promotes the product, going forward, matters. How the team travels to its away games matters.

But so do some of the things Jarrett talked about Tuesday relative to the roster – getting more left-handers in the overly right-handed batting order, luring more pitchers like departing ace John Michael Bertrand and future ace Jack Findlay to South Bend.

Continuing to develop raw pitchers like Liam Simon, Tuesday’s starter and losing pitcher, and freshman right-hander Roman Kimball, two high-velocity throwers who could be elite within refined control.

And not talked about, but important nonetheless, getting prized recruit Owen Murphy to choose ND over an early start to professional baseball after next month’s MLB Draft.

The lefty-righty batting order thing showed up in both of Notre Dame’s CWS losses, Tuesday to Texas A&M (44-19) and Sunday night to Oklahoma.

Switch-hitter Jared Miller accounted for three of Notre Dame’s five hits against the Aggies.

“I think we were too easy to pitch to and that's why,” Jarrett said of having only Miller and Spencer Myers able to hit left-handed among the starters. "When you have above-average secondary pitches and some of the right-handers had multiple of them going, when you have six righties in a row, it's hard to string good at-bats together.”

Dettmer’s most recent start, Friday night in a 13-8 loss to Oklahoma, was the roughest of his unimpressive postseason outings. The 6-foot-4, 215-pound sophomore righty lasted 1 ⅔ innings, having yielded four hits, three walks and seven earned runs with one strikeout.

“I felt like I let everyone down, and I'm not going to lie to you,” Dettmer said. “I went into my hotel room and I cried. I didn't know what to do. I felt lost.

“But I have a good friend, Micah Dallas. He texted me that one game doesn't define me as a person. And baseball doesn't really define me as a person.”

After Texas A&M coach Jim Schlossnagle opted to bring Dettmer (6-3) back on three days’ rest, he went out Tuesday and gave his coach seven innings of three-hit ball with no walks and six strikeouts.

Texas A&M pitcher Nathan Dettmer stifled Notre Dame's right-hand-heavy lineup on Tuesday.
Texas A&M pitcher Nathan Dettmer stifled Notre Dame's right-hand-heavy lineup on Tuesday. (Steven Branscombe. USA TODAY Sports Network)

Simon (2-1) matched him in the first for Notre Dame, striking out the side, and working himself out of trouble in the second. But the Irish unraveled in the third and essentially lost the game in an inning in which there was one hit — and even that should have been caught.

Jordan Thompson led off with a walk against Simon and was balked to second. No. 9 hitter, Kole Kaler, then popped up to short right-center field. Myers in center field had a good path to the ball and should have called off second baseman Miller.

Instead Miller flailed at the ball as it dropped just out of his reach, and the runners ended up on second and third on what was ruled a single. Trevor Werner then walked to load the bases with no one out.

In came Findlay, with four saves and a win in his five relief appearances in the NCAA Tournament. He had inherited a combined seven runners in those games and didn’t allow any of them to score.

Findlay struck out the Aggies’ hottest hitter, Jack Moss, for the first out. Moss came into the game hitting .468 in the postseason (SEC and NCAA tourneys).

All-American Dylan Rock then hit a sharp grounder to third. Third baseman Jack Brannigan, who had been spectacular defensively in the postseason, had three options. Throw home. Step on third for a force. Or throw to first.

Brannigan opted for the throw to first and was charged with a throwing error as two runs scored and the other two runners advanced to second and third. DH Austin Bost then walked to reload the bases.

Ryan Targac flew out to right, with Werner tagging and scoring from third. But Rock got hung up between second and third and was thrown out after Werner crossed the plate to make the score 3-0.

“That wasn't indicative of how our team plays,” Jarrett said. “But we just gave them so many opportunities to capitalize. And they did.”

The Aggies added two more runs in the fifth off Findlay, this time without ND’s help. Werner homered and Rock singled in Moss, who had doubled with no outs.

Relievers Alex Rao and Will Mercer were impressive in covering the final five innings for the Irish while allowing a combined three hits. But since the College World Series moved from Rosenblatt Stadium to Charles Schwab Field in 2011, no team had ever overcome a five-run deficit in CWS play.

And the Irish did not become the first.

There was a window of opportunity in the eighth, though. Brad Rudis replaced Dettmer on the mound for Texas A&M, and Brooks Coetzee promptly homered to left to make it 5-1. Ryan Cole then reached after getting plunked and Myers walked. Lefty Joseph Menofee then replaced Rudis.

He struck out Carter Putz on a 3-2 pitch, then got David LaManna to ground into a 5-3 double play to end the threat.

Texas A&M advances to play Oklahoma Wednesday at 2 p.m. Should the Sooners prevail, they’ll advance to the CWS best-of-3 finals against the Bracket 2 survivor (Ole Miss or Arkansas). If the Aggies win, those two teams will play an elimination game on Thursday.

And Notre Dame will be back home already thinking about 2023.

“You build off of this from the disgust you feel right now,” Jarrett said, “and then the knowledge of what it takes to feel how this should work and what the days are like and how the games feel in this stadium.

“So you learn from the negatives and then you just try to process obviously some of the good things you did. But to take in what this series feels like, until you've done it, you can't teach it, explain it, fake it, show video of it. You can't.

“Now they've done that, are we more prepared the next time this group comes back? Yes. Is it easy to win when we play the way we did? No. And they now know all of that. It's just a tough lesson in this setting to taste it like that.”

Speaking of tough, how much to invest in baseball moving forward, with Jarrett or someone else, can’t be done without considering how it plays against the school’s other non-revenue sports. The one thing that athletic director Jack Swarbrick knows now, though, is that Notre Dame can be great in a part of the country that doesn’t foster greatness.

“I talk to J.T. every once in a while,” Jarrett said of his son, who’s NC State’s second baseman, “and he's like, ‘Dad, I think sometimes you put more thought into the facility than maybe the players.

“I said, J.T., ‘I think you're right. I just want our players to have the best, No. 1, to grow their craft and skills.' This is going to be a profession for these guys. I always focus on player development stuff first. We've done some modifications.

“Then you look at having the ability to host (in the postseason). So, maybe you're giving yourself a better chance to play some of the (NCAA Tournament) series on campus. I don't know if that came into the equation this year or not. Maybe it did.

“The financial piece, when you hold a lot of people, it adds up. Was that part of it this year? I don't know. And Jack Swarbrick and I have talked about it — trying to maybe expand (the stadium) a little bit, because now you are in the discussion for those sorts of things.”

Jarrett, named the NCBWA national Coach of the Year on Friday, choked back the emotion as he toggled between talking about the future and the people with aching hearts in his present.

“I never thought I was coach of the year,” he said. “I have the guys of the year. I mean, these kids have been on 13 road trips, and you've followed it. What they've done is very tough. They earned that. That's not me.

“They're a unique species of student-athlete. I mean that's why we're here. But remove the baseball part. These are exceptional guys. Like, these are global leaders that are in the making, in the world of finance and whatever field they will be in. That's where they will end up.”

BOX SCORE

COLLEGE WORLD SERIES SCORES, SCHEDULES

Seeds: 2 Stanford, 5 Texas A&M, 9 Texas, 14 Auburn

Unseeded: Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Ole MIss

BRACKET 1

At Charles Schwab Field; Omaha, Neb.

(All Times EDT)

Friday, June 17

Game 1: Oklahoma 13, Texas A&M 8

Game 2: Notre Dame 7, Texas 3

Sunday, June 19

Game 3: Oklahoma 6, Notre Dame 2

Game 4: Texas A&M 10, Texas 2

Texas eliminated.

Tuesday, June 21

Game 5: Texas A&M 5, Notre Dame 1

Notre Dame eliminated.

Wednesday, June 22

Game 6: Oklahoma vs. Texas A&M, 2 p.m. (ESPN)

Thursday, June 23 (If necessary)

Game 7: Oklahoma vs. Texas A&M, 2 p.m. (ESPN)

BRACKET 2

Saturday, June 18

Game 1: Arkansas 17, Stanford 2

Game 2: Ole Miss 5, Auburn 1

Sunday, June 20

Game 3: Ole MIss 13, Arkansas 5

Game 4: Auburn 6, Stanford 2

Stanford eliminated.

Tuesday, June 21

Game 5: Arkansas 11, Auburn 1

Auburn eliminated.

Wednesday, June 22

Game 6: Ole Miss vs. Arkansas, 7 p.m. (ESPN)

Thursday, June 23 (If necessary)

Game 7: Ole Miss vs.Arkansas, 7 p.m. (ESPN2)

FINALS

Saturday, June 25

Game 1: Bracket 1 winner vs. Bracket 2 winner, 7 p.m. (ESPN)

Sunday, June 26

Game 2: Bracket 1 winner vs. Bracket 2 winner, 3 p.m. (ESPN)

Monday, June 27 (If necessary)

Game 3: Bracket 1 winner vs. Bracket 2 winner, 7 p.m. (ESPN)

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