Knoxville, TN- It has been a wild atmosphere in Knoxville as Tennessee and Notre Dame square off in the NCAA Tournament. The Super Regionals started on Friday night, with both teams squaring off in game one. It was the fireworks from the Irish batters and the outbursts from the Vols squad that have caused controversy in Knoxville already.
Notre Dame ended up taking the first game of the Super Regionals, winning 8-6 and forcing the Vols into a must win situation on Saturday afternoon at 2:00 PM ET on ESPN. The Irish exploded for four HR's through the first four innings, relying on pitching to get them through the final five innings.
Blade Tidwell only lasted three innings, with Tony Vitello leaning on four additional pitchers to get them through the first game.
"Not an ideal day for him, but he's done a lot for us up to this point," Vitello said of Blade Tidwell.
Tennessee will have Chase Dollander on the mound for Saturday's elimination game, while the Irish will have John Michael Bertland on the mound, who has been Notre Dame's ace.
During his postgame press conference, Tony Vitello was asked about Drew Gilbert, saying he hopes his team leader gets another shot. But if he wants to coach him in a live game scenario, the Vols need to win on Saturday.
"I don't want to misquote the kid, but he turned around and said it was a terrible or something of that effect. I was confused when it happened as to who got thrown out. But, can't take it back.
"I sure enjoy competing with him and would like to do it again," Vitello added.
In the bottom 5th inning, with Notre Dame leading 8-2, Tennessee outfielder Drew Gilbert was at bat, but what was coming next could change the dynamic of the Saturday rematch. After the home plate umpire called a strike, Gilbert looked back and told the umpire that the call was 'Fucking Terrible' according to a video of the incident. I am no lip-reader and could not tell from my vantage of the play, but the video looks to check out.
After the umpire immediately tossed Gilbert, Tennessee pitching coach came rushing out of the dugout and shared his thoughts with the home plate umpire, which led to his ejection as well. According to NCAA rules, both Gilbert and Anderson will be forced to miss Saturday's game because of the ejection.
Following the game, Tony Vitello said he was confused on on who was actually ejected, but then realized Gilbert was also tossed from the game. Vitello noted that he had a conversation with Frank Anderson after his ejection in the locker room about the situation. It should be noted that the Vols pitching coach could miss upwards of three games, due to a previous ejection this season, if the Vols make it past Saturday.
"He reacted to the pitch, was thrown out and Frank reacted to. We talked about as sincere of a conversation you can have in the locker room. Frank wanted to make sure Drew didn’t do anything to further worsen things or get a suspension. At the time I wasn’t sure if it was me, I didn’t say anything, I wasn’t sure who actually got thrown out."
Here is full video of the interaction between.
Tony Vitello said after the game that he didn't know who would replace Gilbert in the lineup on Saturday.
"We gotta have a different guy in the four-hole, I don’t necessarily know who that will be. We’ve mixed guys in and out of the lineup during the year, not this late, but we’ll see. The guy we put in for him (Dickey) is just like Drew, if I want to go down, I want to go down with that guy."
Tennessee has rarely lost consecutive games, but have been in this situation before, having dropped the first two games of the Kentucky series this season. Now with the season on the line, we will see how the Vols respond on Saturday in front of what should be a nervous, but electric crowd.
It all comes down to this one for the No.1 ranked Vols, as Notre Dame looks to clinch a College World Series berth on Saturday and Tennessee hopes to extend the season for at least one more game.