How the Orioles are experiencing the College World Series – The Mercury News

Adley Rutschman wasn’t surprised when he checked his phone after Monday’s game and saw a message from Gunnar Henderson. When he opened it to find a voice memo, he expected the friendly trash talk that had passed between the pair of Orioles prospects for days.

Henderson was committed to Auburn before Baltimore drafted him. Rutschman starred at Oregon State. And over the last week, as the Tigers and Beavers were locked in an NCAA Tournament Super Regional matchup, the duo have gone back and forth.

So Rutschman checked the voice memo from Henderson.

“It was just him laughing,” Rutschman said.

With the College World Series field finalized, there aren’t many players in the Orioles’ clubhouse with direct ties to the teams headed to Omaha, Nebraska. Many were drafted out of high school or from colleges lower in the pecking order than the likes of Oregon State, an annual powerhouse.

But for Henderson, Rutschman, outfielder Kyle Stowers and first baseman Trey Mancini, there has been one eye peeking at phones — or listening to updates from the crowd — as their college programs reach the final eight.

During Sunday’s game in Kansas City, several fans yellowed out to Mancini while he stood at first base, offering updates on Notre Dame’s quest to beat No. 1 seed Tennessee. The Fighting Irish were successful, pulling off a major update that pumped Mancini up for his old team.

“Obviously, I’m focused on our game, but when somebody is yelling updates, I’m gonna hear it,” Mancini said. “I was definitely pretty happy — extremely happy — to hear that. And it was especially pretty sweet it came against a Tennessee team that certainly played with a certain style and flair this year.”

There has been coaching turnover since Mancini left Notre Dame in 2013. But he’s developed relationships with the staff there, and pitching coach Chuck Ristano — one of the holdovers from Mancini’s time — threw to him during last year’s Home Run Derby. Mancini said he talked to Ristano on Sunday to extend his congratulations his.

Since Link Jarrett arrived in 2019 as Notre Dame’s new coach, Mancini grew close with him, too, and he’s impressed by how Jarrett turned around the program in a short time.

“I don’t know how he did it. It’s incredible,” Mancini said. “It’s not always easy to get guys to go play baseball in South Bend, Indiana. It’s freaking cold. We don’t play a home game until like a month into the season. There’s a lot more tempting schools to go to down south. But the fact that he’s recruited such great talent and these guys all seem so bought-in and they really seem like they play for each other, play for the university, I just love the way they play. It’s really fun to follow and I’m definitely proud of them.”

Mancini reached out to Jarrett on Sunday, too, hoping the coach would pass along a message to the players for him.

“Just said, ‘Tell the team they made all of us who have played there really proud to be alumni of Notre Dame baseball,’” Mancini said. “And that hasn’t always been the case. When I was there, we weren’t the best team on campus, I’d say.”

But now Notre Dame, Auburn and Stanford are featuring in the College World Series, leaving three members of the Orioles organization with conflicting rooting interests. Rutschman already has to buy Henderson dinner to make up for the fact Auburn knocked out Oregon State — but it’s Henderson’s birthday soon, so Rutschman doesn’t mind combining the events.

Should any of those teams meet, Mancini is optimistic Notre Dame could be the one on the winning side. Perhaps he’ll even take a page from Henderson’s book by sending a voice memo of himself laughing.

“They’re a good enough team to win it all,” Mancini said. “They really are.”

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