The ball bounced toward the infield as coach Tony Vitello made the slow march of the Tennessee baseball dugout to the mound.
Notre Dame’s Jack Brannigan had sent the same fly ball into the left-field porches on an ill-fated Chase Burns pitch. A Tennessee fan revived him on the court as the season drifted away from the Vols.
Tennessee, which won a program-record 57 games, couldn’t get the win it needed to reach the College World Series and carve out a spot as one of the best teams in college baseball history. Instead, he collapsed at Lindsey Nelson Stadium, losing 7-3 to Notre Dame (40-15) on Sunday in the Knoxville Super Regional Final.
IS:For Tennessee baseball, a stunning loss and heartbreaking exit will sting a while
ADAM:Notre Dame baseball, not the Tennessee Vols, was No. 1 when it mattered most
REACTION:Social media prepares dirt to pile on top of Tennessee baseball after season-ending loss
UT was 49-0 in the lead after six innings on Sunday.
Chase Burns was awesome until he wasn’t anymore
Burns was sensational through the first six innings, putting Tennessee (57-9) on the verge of a College World Series berth. Round seven was a different story.
Burns gave Carter Putz a one-out brace. He got a pop out, but Notre Dame catcher David LaManna hit a two-run homer into the Tennessee bullpen to tie the score 3-3. LaManna homered in 139 at bats before the tie exploded.
Brannigan hit a long foul over the left field fence before setting one into the porches for back-to-back homers and a 4-3 lead.
Burns allowed four runs on five hits in 6⅔ innings. He struck out five and walked one.
Eighth-inning error was a dagger for Tennessee
Tennessee trailed by one in the eighth and was positioned to have two outs with a runner. But Trey Lipscomb made a low pitch to the first that Luc Lipcius couldn’t choose, putting out two with one out instead.
Vitello fired Camden Sewell in favor of Kirby Connell, who got an out on a sacrificial bunt. Putz doubled down the center right to score two more. Jack Zyska scored a single to tag Putz to put UT at 8-3 with an unearned run streak.
Seth Stephenson was the offender
Seth Stephenson delivered Tennessee’s two biggest hits with a pair of RBI hits.
The left fielder hit a two-out left single to tag Jorel Ortega in the second, giving UT a 2-1 lead. He came back strong in the fifth, lining up a brace over the head of Brannigan, who was expecting a punt. Cortland Lawson scored from the first as Notre Dame shortstop Zack Prajzner wavered as the cut-off man.
Mike Wilson covers University of Tennessee athletics. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @ByMikeWilson. If you enjoy Mike’s coverage, consider a digital subscription that will give you access to it all.