Notre Dame homering in each of the first four innings was impressive Friday night.
So was Tennessee's response Saturday afternoon.
Facing an NCAA tournament elimination game for the first time this month, the top-seeded Volunteers answered with four home runs but combined them into the fifth inning and erupted for 12-4 triumph to set up a one-game opportunity for a trip to the College World Series. Tennessee sent a whopping 12 batters to the plate in the fifth and racked up eight runs, with Luc Lipcius leading off that inning with a homer to center field and launching a three-run blast to left-center his second time around.
Jordan Beck also had a three-run homer in the fifth, while Evan Russell also had a solo shot.
"It was a really cool moment," Lipcius said in a news conference afterward. "The Beck homer got us really jittery and really excited, and it's just cool to know you have an offense that can put up that many runs. It was a party in that dugout."
The Fighting Irish (39-15), who built an 8-1 lead Friday evening before winning the super regional opener 8-6, and Tennessee will collide Sunday afternoon at 1 on ESPN in this season's Lindsey Nelson Stadium finale. The Vols (57-8) rolled Saturday without the services of center fielder Drew Gilbert and pitching coach Frank Anderson, who were suspended as a result of arguing balls and strikes Friday and had to watch the series-squaring game off site.
Gilbert will return to action Sunday, but Anderson will remain suspended due to the fact he was ejected during the regular season as well.
"We know Drew was rooting for us wherever he was," Lipcius said. "The crowd is going to go absolutely berserk when he gets his first at-bat."
Tennessee coach Tony Vitello has Chase Burns, Drew Beam and Camden Sewell as pitching possibilities Sunday but did not reveal who would throw the game's first pitch.
Southeastern Conference pitcher of the year Chase Dollander was up for the task of keeping Tennessee's season alive Saturday, working seven innings that yielded five hits and two runs and also contained five strikeouts. Dollander improved to 10-0, the first SEC pitcher to win his first 10 decisions since Blaine Knight of Arkansas in 2018.
"I just think I was able to use all my pitches effectively," Dollander said. "The fastball was playing up really well today, and I was able to use all four of my pitches. Usually the curveball isn't there, but today it was, and I kind of used that to my advantage."
Tennessee took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning on Trey Lipscomb's two-out double to center that scored Seth Stephenson, who had led off the game with a single up the middle. In the fifth-inning barrage, Lipcius tied Russell for the program's career homer mark, Russell pulled back ahead by one, and then Lipcius tied him again.
"You try not to think about that stuff, but it's impossible not to think about it," Lipcius said, smiling. "It's really just a game, and no one is chasing records. It's cool after the fact when it happens."
Bearing the brunt of Tennessee's onslaught was Notre Dame ace John Bertrand, who entered having made 16 starts and having compiled a 9-2 record and a 2.27 earned run average.
"I just think our guys did a good job today of coming to the park with determination," Vitello said. "It was a long, hot day, but it was a good day."
Said Lipcius: "We could have come in here really tight. I think the culmination of a lot of things led to this win."