OMAHA, Neb. — On a July day in 2019, Link Jarrett settled in at a Starbucks near his home in Greensboro, North Carolina and for 45 minutes, just listened.
Plenty of people wanted to get with Jarrett in the days after he earned his chance to be the head coach at Notre Dame. There were family members and friends and well-wishers and seemingly an endless array of people whose paths had crossed somewhere along the line with Jarrett, a college playing/coaching lifer.
There was one call that Jarrett absolutely had to take. Not because of the congratulatory comments coming from the other end. Rather, the words of wisdom from someone who had previously sat in the chair where Jarrett soon would sit.
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That’s why Jarrett was in that Starbucks that day fielding a call from former Irish head coach Paul Mainieri.
“When I got the job, he called me,” Jarrett remembered last week before his team left to play in the College World Series for the first time since Mainieri guided the Irish there in 2002. “Before I ever got here, Paul was like I’m going to tell you some of the things that I think you need to know as you enter Notre Dame.”
Things like how best to approach non-conference scheduling, and travel. And some of the obstacles in terms of recruiting and weather and winter workouts. Jarrett jotted down some notes on some topics, listened but decided to do it his own way on others. But every single word Mainieri said about Notre Dame had Jarrett’s absolute attention.
“His continued advice as to how to navigate some of the things that make Notre Dame very special but very unique, he guided me,” Jarrett said.
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Mainieri was in the Charles Schwab Field stands — up there in a second-level suite — for Friday’s opening-game win over Texas. The head coach left Notre Dame in 2006 after 12 seasons and 533 wins, but the Mainieri name remains a part of the program. His son, Nick, a 2006 Notre Dame graduate, is the baseball program’s academic advisor.
Those early talks with the elder Mainieri gave way to talks with the younger Mainieri, who often served (and still does in ways) as a sounding board for Jarrett when it comes to scheduling travel and practices and study halls and days to condition.
“Those guys,” Jarrett said, “got me off the ground here.”
That’s why the last few weeks have meant so much to Jarrett. Being able to carry the same College World Series banner across the field after winning the super regional in Knoxville that the 2002 team during its postseason run was powerful.
So is playing in Nebraska this week. There’s still a spot on that banner, which looks like it’s seen better days since 2002, for the year 2022 to be sewn in and carried forward by future Irish.
Getting back to Omaha means a lot to Jarrett and this program, but getting back 20 years after Mainieri and that group did it means more.
“Paul had a hand in it probably more than he realizes,” Jarrett said. “It’s meant to be. It’s fitting. To feel that team’s presence, to think about how that thing’s lined up, it’s magical.”
The late-game relieving run by Irish freshman left-hander Jack Findlay has come at a cost to veteran left-hander Aidan Tyrell.
With Findlay working so well, Tyrell has had to watch and wait for his turn. Heading into Sunday’s winners-bracket game against Oklahoma, Tyrell had not pitched in five games. Not since he worked one inning against Georgia Southern in the second game of the Statesboro, Georgia regional on June 4 had the Joliet, Illinois native gotten a call.
Jarrett wasn’t worried. He knew if/when he needed Tyrell, the kid would be ready.
“It’s just is another club in the bag,” Jarrett said. “We didn’t have to hit the Tyrell club (in Knoxville). As we felt our way through it, that lineup, it felt like maybe the righties with the slider were a better option. We just went to some other clubs.”
Heading into Sunday, Tyrell had appeared in 25 games with a 5-1 record and 3.60 earned-run average in 45 innings, fifth most on the staff. Jarrett wants to get him in there.
“That guy,” he said of Tyrell, “was absolutely ready to go. That was a good club that we had left in the bag.”
It’s still there. Just give it a call.
You can’t spend time in Omaha and not find your way to at least one good, old-fashioned steakhouse in a town that’s known for them.
On Thursday, Irish assistant coach Rich Wallace and his family dined at The Drover, a hot dinner spot a long home run away from downtown. Even before 7 pm, with the sun still high in the sky, the wait for a table was already 90 minutes.
On Saturday, right fielder Brooks Coetzee and his family/friends dinner party were left waiting for a table, and trying to figure out dinner plans for different reasons outside Johnny’s Café, touted as the original Omaha steakhouse since 1922 (with an interior décor to match ).
A little after 7:30 pm, the ventilating system at Johnny’s broke down, which left the dining area filled with a haze of smoke from the grill. It forced the restaurant to close early, leaving Coetzee and his party outside trying to figure out where to go to eat next.
They likely didn’t have to look far.
► Win Sunday over Oklahoma (a game that started after Tribune deadline) and Notre Dame would get Monday and Tuesday off before playing Wednesday against an opponent to be determined for the right to be the first team to advance to the three-game final series next weekend.
► A win Sunday would give Notre Dame consecutive CWS victories for the second time in school history. During its first visit to Omaha in 1957, Notre Dame beat Colorado State (23-2) and Texas (9-0) after an opening round, extra-inning loss to Iowa State. Notre Dame was eliminated the next game out by Penn State.
► The first round of CWS over the first two days carried a similar team theme — the underdogs got it done. All four teams that were not among the top 16 seeds — Oklahoma, Notre Dame, Arkansas and Mississippi — won its openers. That put a whole lot of win or go home pressure Sunday and Monday on No. 2 Stanford, No. 5 Texas A&M, No. 9 Texas and No. 14 Auburn.
► Irish senior first baseman Carter Putz has rebounded nicely from a rough regional, where he went 0-for-12 in three games. Since that weekend in Georgia, Putz is 6-for-16 (.375 avg.) with two doubles, two home runs and seven RBI in four games. He went 1-for-5 with a home run and a double Friday against Texas.
► Average attendance at Charles Schwab Field (capacity 24,500) after the first two opening days of play was 24,643 with the average start time temperature of 90.5 degrees. Sunday and Monday were expected to see air temperatures close to 100.
► Notre Dame entered Sunday’s game with a 12-3 record at neutral-site games. Oklahoma was 14-7. Of those 21 games, the Sooners played 13 at Globe Life Field, home of the Texas Rangers. They also played a three-game tournament at Minute Made Park, home of the Houston Astros.
Follow South Bend Tribune and NDInsider columnist Tom Noie on Twitter: @tnoieNDI. Contact: (574) 235-6153.