OMAHA, Neb. — In mid-February, the team bus trudged through wintry conditions along Interstate 80 as Notre Dame entered the first of its five consecutive weekends away from home to open the 2022 college baseball season , it was hard to think of Omaha, the College World Series and triple-digit temperatures here in the heartland of America.
Link Jarrett was laughing before the question was over.
“We better [be comfortable away from home]said Jarrett, hit Friday morning as the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association’s National Coach of the Year.
“You try to create what it’s like to do it the right way on the road. Then you try to create the right way to do it at home. So, again, you have to be really good at both to stand a chance of being in the discussion for any kind of post-season stuff.
“So we have to be really comfortable. And the thing is early on, when it’s all road, road, road, road, it allows you to find a rhythm and things that you want to do on the road.
Here in Omaha, where Notre Dame plays its CWS opener tonight at 7 against the perennial powerhouse of Texas (47-20) inside Charles Schwab Field, no team is tested anymore. outside.
Officially the 13th trip this season for the Fighting Irish (40-15), who also played one-off games at Elon, Northwestern and Detroit against Michigan State, it’s just one more home and away test. at home. .
“We’ve had so many experiences that everyone trusts the person next to us and our coaching staff,” All-ACC outfielder Ryan Cole said. “And everyone just goes out and plays with energy, passion for the person next to you, knowing that the next guy is going to support you.”
The Irish’s path to program history this year started rather badly; Jarrett easily recalled the logistical quagmire that preceded Notre Dame’s 2-1 opening weekend in the Stetson Hatter Classic. A blizzard that hit both Chicago and South Bend, Indiana nearly prevented the Irish from even leaving.
“I’ll just start at the top, we didn’t get to our hotel rooms until about 2:45 a.m. Friday (February 18), and it takes a while to get that many people settled,” Jarrett said earlier. Irish Sports Daily. “It’s about the most grueling travel situation you can imagine.
“The tenacity of these guys to bounce back from a 14 hour travel experience the day before, to play like we played on Friday was remarkable. These children are special, exceptional children; their transition from class to practice, to get out of here and be ready to go, and I give a lot of credit to Rich (Wallace) and Chuck (Ristano) for their work on our scouting reports. They do such a good job.
Notre Dame’s first road trip in 22 gave this team a double-edged streak: the Irish would have to contend with a myriad of travel components to stay standing as the ACC’s sole CWS representative, a year after having won the conference crown, and they would also have to repeatedly unload the resilience that Jarrett had so widely praised them for.
“They have to focus on the details of the game, because everything that’s going on around you and how the place is playing, the people and the noise, you basically have to reduce that to the details of the competition,” Jarrett said.
“And that’s really what matters most. So the sooner they can get to this point in Game 1 on Friday, like they did in Knoxville – and regardless of records, crowds, noise, can’t hear, can’t think – that matters , this is what happens on the ground.
In the first month of this season, Notre Dame — with its rigorous academic requirements that sometimes had players in the study hall of hotel ballrooms, for midterm exams — logged 60 hours of travel time. For a variety of reasons, from aircraft availability to funding and school policy, the team very rarely flies charters.
By the end of the season, the data-driven Irishman had totaled “176 hours of travel and associated packing/unpacking for those trips”.
“You have to be really good to figure it out on the road,” Jarrett said. “Then we had a couple back-to-back home streaks late, not a ton, but you do. It just relieves them of their burden, sitting at O’Hare or sitting at Midway, and sitting at Charlotte waiting for a flight.
“And then Sunday, packing up the hotel and scrambling, and playing the game and jumping and taking the bus somewhere, and flying and getting to O’Hare at 11:00, and taking the bus two and a half hours back to the field and you roll into the locker room at 1 or 2 in the morning. Sometimes it’s four, five weeks in a row. You have to be good at both.”
The Irish have 23 away wins this season; they have 17 from Frank Eck Stadium.
For context, consider that 40 wins is just six more games than Game 1 opponent Texas put up at home, where they posted a 27-7 mark. The other members of the Irish group CWS, Texas A&M and Oklahoma, have played 36 and 27 home games respectively.
Jarrett, his 85-30 mark in two full seasons and his COVID-truncated and abridged first 2020 campaign, nevertheless won at a record clip for the Notre Dame program; his program also boasts the second-best winning percentage in the nation since the 2020 season — that clip of .739 just behind the top-ranked Tennessee team he dropped from last weekend’s tournament at Knoxville Super Regional.
As Jarrett prepares for his 116th game in charge of Notre Dame, this is also his 74th away game in three seasons.
Imagine a college football program playing seven to eight games away from its stadium each season.
Yet these Fighting Irish embrace the path.
“I think it goes back even to my freshman year, we’ve been traveling since I was a freshman all the time,” fifth-year wide receiver David LaManna said. “So when you go out, the bases are always 90 feet (from each other), 60 feet, 6 inches [pitcher’s mound to home plate]you’re just trying to play your game.
“It doesn’t matter where you are.”
No, maybe not. Especially when the road leads to Omaha.
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