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Hearne comes up big in win over Valparaiso

| Thursday, April 14, 2016

One week after the first attempt at the game between Notre Dame and Valparaiso was delayed after a full day of rain, the two teams finally met Wednesday at Frank Eck Stadium on a beautiful day for baseball.

The Irish (18-12, 6-7 ACC) rode senior starting pitcher Michael Hearne’s complete game to an easy 3-1 win over the visiting Crusaders (11-16, 5-3 Horizon).

The Irish got on the board first with three consecutive hits in the bottom of the third inning. Junior third baseman Kyle Fiala and senior center fielder Kyle Richardson cracked back-to-back singles before junior second baseman Cavan Biggio drove a ball to the right-field fence for a triple and two RBIs. The next batter, freshman designated hitter Nick Podkul, followed that up with a sacrifice fly to center field to score Biggio and give Notre Dame a 3-0 lead.

That burst of offense in the third inning plated the only runs of the night for Notre Dame, but they were more than enough for Hearne.

The lefty retired 13 consecutive Crusader batters from the second inning into the seventh. Valparaiso senior left fielder Nolan Lodden spoiled Hearne’s shutout, however, with a leadoff double in the top of the ninth before coming around to score on an infield sacrifice.

Hearne finished the day with just the one earned run on four hits and zero walks with five strikeouts.

Irish junior infielder Cavan Biggio waits for the pitch during Notre Dame’s 6-3 win over Chicago State. Biggio is hitting .306 on the year with 27 runs, three home runs and 21 RBIs.Kathleen Donahue | The Observer
Irish junior infielder Cavan Biggio waits for the pitch during Notre Dame’s 6-3 win over Chicago State. Biggio is hitting .306 on the year with 27 runs, three home runs and 21 RBIs.

“Incredible,” Irish head coach Mik Aoki said about Hearne’s night. “Really remarkable. Considering, I don’t know what it was, 86 pitches or something. Ninety-one. He was really, really good. He commanded it, commanded the fast ball. … On a night where we weren’t as good offensively as we’ve been, he came up huge.”

Notre Dame has won all seven games started by Hearne (4-0) this season so far. Tonight he dropped his season ERA from 3.18 to 2.72, which leads Irish starters.

“My fastball command was there, and that’s usually what sets me up pretty well, hitting both sides of the corner,” Hearne said. “And then before I fell into that groove, in the first and second inning the defense was really picking me up. [Cavan Biggio] made a nice play, [sophomore left fielder Jake Shepski] in the outfield. The defense really picked me up, and then the changeup started working and so did the fastball on both sides of the plate.”

In a scary moment for Notre Dame, Fiala was struck by a pitch on his right hand, forcing him to the ground in pain. Wednesday’s game was just his third game back after he was forced to miss a month with an injury to the same hand. Fiala came back out to field his position the next inning and was able to finish out the game.

“He’s alright. It kind of got his pinky,” Aoki said. “It caught him on that same hand, though, which gives you a little pause for a second there. But he’s fine. He made a couple plays after that, so I think he was fine.”

The Irish now lead the all-time series against Valparaiso 77-21, a series which dates back to 1918.

Next up for the Irish will be a three game set against Boston College this weekend. First pitch between Notre Dame and the Eagles (18-11, 5-8 ACC) will be at 6:05 p.m. on Friday. All three games will be played at Frank Eck Stadium.

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