April 19, 2016

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By Russell Dorn

EAST LANSING, Mich. —It’s hard to say a complete game is routine but you sure could have fooled anyone watching University of Notre Dame senior LHP Michael Hearne recently. After going the distance in a 3-1 victory over Valparaiso last week, the Palos Heights, Illinois native took it to the next level by posting a complete-game shutout (1-0) on the road at No. 21 Michigan State Tuesday at McLane Baseball Stadium.

The win was Notre Dame’s first at Michigan State since 1986 and improves the Irish to 7-0 in midweek games in 2016. It was Notre Dame’s third ranked win in midweek action (No. 17 Michigan & No. 30 Oregon) and the fourth ranked win overall.

Junior Ryan Lidge totaled two of Notre Dame’s four hits on the day and hit a game winning, solo homer to leadoff the sixth inning. It was his first homer of the season.

“You can’t give Mike enough credit,” said Lidge. “He’s the sole reason we won that game. Our defense played well and I thought we swung the bat well even though it went in gloves, but Michael Hearne goes out there and he doesn’t stop from last week. He says ‘here’s my best stuff, let’s see what you can do with it.’ He wanted it and he got it.”

In the process Hearne (5-0) became the first Irish pitcher since Cole Johnsonin 2009 to hurl back-to-back complete games. He now has three complete games in his career. He is also the second Notre Dame pitcher in as many years to start a season 5-0 (Ryan Smoyer, started 9-0).

Hearne scattered seven hits over the nine innings and used some monster plays from his defense to keep the Spartans off the board. He walked none and struck out two batters, relying on his defense for the other 25 outs. He didn’t allow a runner to reach third base until the seventh inning.

He tallied five 1-2-3 innings and had five innings where he threw 10 pitches or less, including five in the fourth inning and just four in the eighth. He finished the day with 91 pitches, which is the exact same amount he hurled against Valpo in his other complete game this year.

A couple of big defensive plays really helped Hearne out. In the third inning, Spartan leadoff hitter Marty Bechina hit a single to center field, but was caught trying to turn it into a double as freshman CF Matt Vierling gunned it to senior shortstop Lane Richards who tossed it to junior second baseman Cavan Biggio for the inning-ending tag.

Hearne helped himself in the eighth with a monster strikeout to end the inning that stranded a runner at third base and set up a wild ninth sealed the win for the Irish.

The Spartans tallied back-to-back singles to open the final frame and put the winning run on base. A big play by Hearne put the Irish in better situation though. On a bunt attempt to advance the runners, Hearne made the heady play to toss to third and get the lead runner instead of throwing to first.

After the fielder’s choice, Brandon Hughes singled to center field and Jordan Zimmerman gathered up a head of steam as he rounded third base and headed towards home.

Kyle Richardson, a defensive replacement in CF in the eighth inning, made one of the plays of the game by scooping up the ball and hurling it to home plate and Lidge, who quickly caught the ball and applied the tag to maintain the shutout.

A grounder to Richards at short produced the game’s final out and clinched the complete-game shutout for Hearne.

In his last three starts, Hearne is 3-0 with victories over No. 17 Michigan, Valpo and Michigan State. In those starts he has a remarkable 0.72 ERA over 25.0 innings of work. Hearne has 10 strikeouts to just two walks and is holding opponents to a .163 batting average.

Hearne wasn’t the only elite pitcher on the day, however, as Michigan State lefty Keegan Baar turned in a gem of his own. He perfect gamed the Irish through 4.2 innings and had a no-hitter through five innings.

Lidge wiped away the no-hitter and shutout though with one swing of the bat to leadoff the sixth, as he took a 2-2 pitch and smashed it off the scoreboard to give Notre Dame the lead.

“That was my second two-strike at-bat of the game. My first one I saw pitches really well and grounded out to third. I thought I had a really good at-bat,” said Lidge. “So I came into the second one pretty confident. I feel like I’ve been seeing the ball really well lately. I got to two strikes again and he threw me a hanging change up and I tripped over my bat but I heard the guys go crazy in the dugout. Thank God it went over because that’s the one run. I was pretty excited about it. The coolest part was right before the at-bat Coach Woods said ‘how about you hit one over left field for us.’ So I had a big smile rounding third.”

With the win, the No. 29 Irish (22-12) have now won six games in a row, including 14 of 16 and 16 of 20.

Notre Dame continues its busy stretch with a midweek home game against Central Michigan tomorrow night (Wednesday, April 20). Tickets for the weekend series are available at UND.com/buytickets or at the Frank Eck Stadium box office on game day. Adult tickets are $5, while a youth/senior ticket is $3. Irish faculty, staff and students are admitted free with a valid ID. Fans that can’t make it to the stadium can follow along on WatchND, WHME 103.1 FM in South Bend or live stats.

For more information on the Notre Dame baseball team, follow the Irish on Facebook (/NDBaseball), Twitter (@NDBaseball) and Instagram (notredamebaseball).

Russell Dorn, athletics communications assistant director at the University of Notre Dame, has been part of the Fighting Irish athletics communications team since 2011 and coordinates all media efforts for the Notre Dame volleyball, rowing and baseball programs. A native of Greenwood, South Carolina, Dorn graduated from Furman University in 2008 with a bachelor’s degree in history before earning his master’s degree in sports communications from Georgia State University in 2011.