April 8, 2017
By Ben Auwaerter
NOTRE DAME, Indiana — On a beautiful Saturday afternoon at Frank Eck Stadium, Michael Hearne dominated the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, throwing 8.2 innings en route to the Notre Dame Baseball team’s 4-3 victory.
All of the Irish runs came on a grand slam from co-captain Kyle Fiala. The third baseman’s fourth blast of the season was all the run support that Hearne would need, as the senior lefty surrendered just one unearned run and three total runs over the course of the game.
It was a battle of the southpaws on Saturday, with Georgia Tech starting freshman left-hander Jay Shadday. While Hearne frustrated hitters all day with his crafty arsenal of pitches, Shadday’s outing was tainted by Fiala’s grand slam. Notre Dame’s senior lefty exhibited great control all day long, throwing first-pitch strikes to 23 of 34 batters faced and walking only one. As a result of his outstanding performance, Hearne lowered his season ERA to 2.34 and tallied his second win of the year. Junior Peter Solomon would come on to record the final out of the ninth inning, picking up his first save on the season on just one pitch.
Several Irish players had productive days at the plate. The offensive hero, Fiala, finished the day 2-for-3 with four RBI. Junior Jake Shepski had an exceptional day in the nine hole, going 2-for-3 with one run scored. Matt Vierling also reached base a couple of times, notching two walks on the day.
The victory gives the Irish their third series win in five ACC series this season. They will be looking for their first sweep of the year on Sunday.
Notre Dame missed a big opportunity in the first. Sophomore Nick Podkul began the frame with a single up the middle. His hit extended his on-base streak to 17 straight games. After a stolen base and Jake Johnson’s walk, Fiala laid an excellent bunt down to move the runners to second and third. Sophomore Matt Vierling’s walk in the next at-bat would load the bases. Unfortunately for the Irish, Georgia Tech forced the next batter to strike out and a loud flyout by freshman Patrick McDonald would end the inning, as the Yellow Jackets escaped without surrendering a run.
The Irish would not let their next bases-loaded opportunity go to waste. With one out, Cole Daily drew a walk. He was followed by Jake Shepski, who reached base on a perfectly-placed bunt hit. After a ground-out by Podkul, Johnson notched his second walk, loading the bases and bringing Fiala to the plate. The Irish co-captain jumped on the first pitch he saw, a high fastball, and drove it deep over the centerfield wall for a grand slam. Fiala’s fourth home run of the year was a big one, giving the Irish a 4-0 lead.
Georgia Tech got on the board in the fourth. Wade Bailey led off the inning for the Yellow Jackets with a single that just eluded the Irish shortstop, Cole Daily. The next batter, Kel Johnson, hit a swinging bunt that rolled in front of the Irish catcher, Ryan Lidge. Lidge’s throw on the play was off the mark, sailing into the outfield and allowing Georgia Tech’s runner to score from first. Hearne would be able to shut down the Yellow Jackets the rest of the inning, keeping the Notre Dame lead at 4-1.
Georgia Tech capitalized on an Irish error in the seventh frame to tighten the score. Austin Wilhite led off the Yellow Jackets half of the inning by reaching base on an Irish error. Following a pop-out, left fielder Chase Murray singled down the right field line to advance runners to first and third. A deep sacrifice fly to center field in the next at-bat would score Wilhite, reducing the Notre Dame lead to 4-2. Hearne, however, stopped the Georgia Tech rally with a strikeout to end the inning.
Georgia Tech did not go quietly in the ninth, but Notre Dame would ultimately shut down the Yellow Jackets. After retiring the first two batters of the inning, Hearne surrendered two singles, a walk, and one run, which shrunk the Irish lead to 4-3. With two outs and runners on first and third, Peter Solomon relieved Hearne. The junior right-hander would retire the final Yellow Jacket on one pitch to secure the Notre Dame 4-3 victory.
On his grand slam…
“Bases loaded with two outs, I just wanted to go out and hunt a fastball. The kid left a fastball up in the zone, I put a good swing on it and it happened to go out.”
On his approach at the plate today…
“I think the main thing is going up and being able to see pitches. You always want to be able to see the ball to hit the ball. So I was just keeping it simple, getting my hands in the zone, seeing a pitch and attacking it.”
On fellow co-captain Michael Hearne’s outing…
“It was awesome. We’ve gotten used to that, anytime he comes out there and pitches you know he’s going to compete and put you in a position to win. He did that again today. He always does it, so that was huge.”
On clinching the series…
“It’s huge. This is a confident team and knowing that we can go out there and compete with anybody is huge. We know we can do that.”
The Irish will seek to complete the sweep on Sunday versus Georgia Tech. First pitch is slated for 12:05 p.m. ET at Frank Eck Stadium. The game can be seen on ACC Network Extra and heard on WatchND and 103.1 FM.
— ND —
Fighting Irish Media student worker Ben Auwaerter is a sophomore at Notre Dame and is from Lutherville, Maryland. He previously worked during the summer of 2014 with the Baltimore Orioles public relations office.