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Michael Hearne pitches Notre Dame past Michigan State in midweek upset

| Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Different week, same story for Notre Dame and senior left-hander Michael Hearne.

Although the Irish (22-12, 9-7 ACC) saw their offense largely held in check at Michigan State on Tuesday afternoon, Hearne hurled his second complete game in as many starts and stifled the Spartans (25-8, 7-2 Big Ten) in a 1-0 victory for Notre Dame, its sixth in a row and 14th of 16.

Hearne kept the Spartans off the board completely, making it just the third time Michigan State has been held scoreless all season.

Irish senior left-hander Michael Hearne fires a pitch during Notre Dame's 9-5 win over UIC on March 22 at Frank Eck Stadium. Notre Dame has won every game Hearne has started this season.Michael Yu | The Observer
Irish senior left-hander Michael Hearne fires a pitch during Notre Dame’s 9-5 win over UIC on March 22 at Frank Eck Stadium. The Irish have won every game Hearne has started on the mound for them this season.

The Irish got their only run of the entire game in the top of the sixth inning with a solo shot off the bat of junior catcher Ryan Lidge, who said the best part about it was helping Hearne get the win.

“It’s probably more gratifying for me that it came for a guy that just absolutely dominated on the mound.,” Lidge said. “I knew it would be a low scoring game. After a couple innings, you kinda get that vibe. I’d love to do that for every guy on the staff, but I think, doing it for Mike — because he’s a guy that just works his tail off — it kinda means a little more for me. It makes me feel real good that I was able to do that for him.”

Other than getting the leadoff batter on base in the bottom of the seventh inning, Michigan State’s only real scoring chance of the game came in the ninth inning.

The Spartans got the first two batters of the inning on with back-to-back singles before a pair of sterling defensive plays preserved the narrowest of leads for the Irish.

Hearne was able to get the lead runner out at third base on a fielder’s choice for the first out of the inning before senior center fielder Kyle Richardson made the play of the game to keep the tying run from scoring at home for the second out of the inning.

“The guy hit the ball up the middle,” Lidge said of the play that saved the game. “[Senior shortstop] Lane Richards makes a big dive with outstretched arms — I thought he was going to get it. It gets through him, gets to Kyle, who was in there as a defensive replacement, and he makes a fantastic throw home. I don’t know if he could have thrown it better. Fantastic throw to home, gives me a nice hop. I go to tag him. He slid in pretty hard, so I was just hoping I held on to the ball. I squeezed it real tight, and we got him out.

“That’s two big plays back-to-back, with [Hearne] getting the guy out at third, and it was a big play to stop the tying run from scoring. I think that might have taken the breath out of Michigan State.”

With Tuesday’s win, Notre Dame has won every game started by Hearne this season. The nine innings of shutout ball dropped his ERA to 2.25 on the season.

“Mike’s the epitome of what we try to live every single day,” Lidge said. “Going out there and being confident in yourself, grinding through at-bats. He had a couple at-bats where the guy just kept fouling stuff off. Having Mike go out there every midweek, knowing that he’s a guy that’s going to give us a big chance to win, puts a lot of confidence in our hitters and puts a lot of confidence in the defense. We can tell that Mike feels good about himself because he feels good about the team, so he’s just a great guy to play for, great guy to play behind. I couldn’t be happier for him to get that complete-game shutout.”

Up next for the Irish is Wednesday night’s return to Frank Eck Stadium in a midweek game against Central Michigan.

“We’ve been playing really, really well as of late,” Lidge said. “But we don’t really try to look at that. We just say, ‘Hey, we’re gonna go out there, we’re gonna have a ton of fun, but at the same time, we’re going to compete at a really high level.’ We’re really confident in ourselves right now. We’re firing on all cylinders, and we’re ready to go tomorrow. We’re just going to take it one pitch at a time and hopefully come away with the victory.”

First pitch between the Irish and Chippewas (8-28, 3-6 MAC) will be at 6:05 p.m. at Frank Eck Stadium.

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