Nathan Dettmer and Texas A&M did what Tennessee couldn't — send the Irish home
Whatever the odds were, they couldn’t have been in Nathan Dettmer’s favor.
The A&M starter was pitching on 3 days rest after he couldn’t get out of the 2nd inning in a blowout loss against Oklahoma to open the College World Series. It wasn’t just that Dettmer was coming off a bad start. His struggles dated back to when the calendar turned to May. Entering Tuesday’s elimination game, he had allowed 30 earned runs in his last 7 starts, none of which lasted 5 full innings.
On top of that, Dettmer was tasked with keeping A&M’s season alive against the Notre Dame, AKA the team who knocked off No. 1 overall seed Tennessee in the Knoxville Super Regional. In that elimination game, Notre Dame overcame a 2-run deficit with a pair of 7th inning home runs that stunned the Tennessee faithful and ultimately sent the Irish to Omaha for the first time in 2 decades.
So yeah, Dettmer’s odds of delivering a gem on Tuesday? Not great.
Apparently, he didn’t get the memo. Or if he did, he scoffed at any notion that he’d struggle in consecutive outings in Omaha.
Dettmer was, as Jim Schlossnagle said afterwards, “outstanding in every sense of the word.” Seven innings of 3-hit, shutout ball not only kept A&M alive, it sent the program to its first CWS semifinal ever. Dettmer became the first pitcher in A&M history to throw 7 shutout innings in the College World Series, and he was the first SEC pitcher to do that with allowing 3 hits or less since Alex Faedo en route to Florida’s national title in 2017.
There’s clutch, and then there’s whatever Dettmer was on Tuesday.
Most coaches probably wouldn’t have given the sophomore pitcher a chance to redeem himself in the first place. Guys who can’t get out of the 2nd inning don’t usually warrant short-rest treatment. Credit that to Schlossnagle, who told the ESPN crew before the game that he thought a sinker-ball pitcher like Dettmer would actually benefit from short rest because it would take some velocity off and allow his pitches to get a little more depth.
Schlossnagle couldn’t have been more right about that.
Dettmer finished the day with 10 ground ball outs and he didn’t walk a single batter. The same guy who delivered a leadoff walk to open the College World Series had the off-speed working, including a changeup that he consistently threw for strikes.
But it’s not like Dettmer totally dialed it back. The in-stadium radar gun had him at 95 MPH in the 6th inning and 94 MPH in the 7th. In every way, he was dealing. ESPN color analyst Ben McDonald said on the call in the 2nd inning that “Dettmer is a totally different dude today” compared to Friday. That proved to be far more accurate than McDonald could’ve known.
It was the 6th time that Dettmer didn’t walk a single hitter. That had only happened once in his previous 9 starts.
Instead of being the guy who put pressure on the bullpen like he had been since the start of May, Dettmer got back to being the pitcher he was in April. In that month, he allowed just 5 earned runs in 5 starts. That was at the root of Schlossnagle’s faith in him to deliver.
Of course, Dettmer couldn’t do it alone. After Trevor Werner booted the first play of the game on a ground ball to 3rd, A&M didn’t commit another error the rest of the way while the Irish had 2 errors in what was an atypically sloppy defensive showing.
It was Werner who delivered the momentum-shifting base hit on a 12-pitch at-bat in the win against Texas, and once again, the redshirt sophomore came up big for A&M. He rocketed a solo blast over the left-field wall to push A&M’s lead to 4-0, which was his first time going deep since May 27. Werner’s defense also put the kibosh on the only real Irish threat in the later innings.
After Notre Dame fittingly homered on the first pitch following Dettmer’s exit, the Irish had runners on first and second with nobody out in a 5-1 game in the 8th.
In stepped Joseph Menefee — fresh off a rough Oklahoma outing of his own — and out stepped any late Irish life.
The lefty reliever struck out the first batter he faced and then got David LaManna to ground into an inning-ending double play, which came courtesy of Werner’s dart across the diamond.
The Aggie double play ends a potential Irish rally.
— NCAA Baseball (@NCAABaseball) June 21, 2022
Unlike Notre Dame’s late rally in Knoxville, there was no comeback victory to be had. Not with how well A&M’s pitching stepped up.
Now it’s A&M’s comeback attempt that’ll continue. The Aggies are trying to become the 5th team in the last 41 years to lose Game 1 and still win it all. In order for that to become a possibility, they’ll need some redemption against the same Oklahoma squad who spoiled their start in Omaha … and they’ll have to do so twice.
But regardless of how that plays out, Tuesday clinched what’s now the best season in program history. Year 1 of the Schlossnagle era included 2 wins in Omaha, which was the program’s total entering 2022. Not too shabby.
Tuesday was exactly why Ross Bjork poached Schlossnagle from TCU and clearly, the addition of highly regarded pitching coach Nate Yeskie was monumental (he’s in the CWS with his 3rd different program). It took a group effort to produce Dettmer’s gem.
As we found out from Dettmer’s mom Mary on the ESPN broadcast, it also took some convincing from her son to get the ball on Tuesday. She said that Nathan told the coaching staff “just give me another chance.” Schlossnagle gave him that chance.
On Monday, Dettmer called his mom. She had already gone back home to San Antonio, which is a 14-hour drive from Omaha. But somehow, she made it back to Charles Schwab Field.
Just in time to witness the game of her son’s life.