April 25, 2014
GARY, Ind. - University of Notre Dame pitcher Michael Hearne had about 20 minutes to prepare for a start against Northeastern Friday night after regular starter Sean Fitzgerald was scratched with a sore forearm. Not flustered, the sophomore went about his usual business by going 8.2 innings on the mound in leading the Irish baseball team to an 8-4 victory over the Huskies at the U.S. Steel Yard.
A track meet broke out at the ballpark in the first two innings as eight runs crossed the plate between the two teams. Following the first two frames, one team scored in the third, fourth and fifth innings before the runs came to a screeching halt.
The Irish took full advantage of several Huskie miscues early in the game as three of their first six runs were unearned. In the opening frame the Irish put up a four-spot as two Northeastern errors played a big role in the inning. After giving up two runs in the top of the first on three extra-base hits, the Irish offense came out on fire in the bottom half of the opening frame. Juniors Conor Biggio and Mac Hudgins both reached base to open the game as Biggio was hit by a pitch and Hudgins slapped a single through the right side. Following a strike out, junior Blaise Lezynski reached first on a fielding error by first baseman Brad Burcroff that also scored Biggio and moved Hudgins to second. Junior Phil Mosey followed the error with a single to load the bases and senior Forrest Johnson came through in the clutch with a single to center field that plated Hudgins. With one out, things got weird as centerfielder Connor Lyons snagged a fly ball to give the inning its second out but then unleashed a bad throw to the plate that got away from catcher Josh Treff and allowed both Lezynski and Mosey to score and push the Irish lead to 4-2.
Notre Dame extended its lead to 6-2 in the second as the Irish scored a pair of runs with two outs. Hudgins got the offense started with another single before Cavan Biggio and Lezynski followed with singles as well. The latter scored Hudgins and moved Biggio to third. With Mosey at the dish, Lezynski tried to steal second and probably would have been caught if someone on the Huskie defense had been on the bag to receive Treff’s throw. Instead, Lezynski was credited with a stolen base and Biggio snuck home for another Notre Dame run.
A Robert Youngdahl RBI double in the third and a Johnson sac fly in the fifth closed out Notre Dame’s scoring for the night as it plated runs in each of the first five frames.
The eight runs would be more than enough for Hearne (4-4) as he settled in nicely once he got through a rocky first inning. The Palos Heights, Ill., native had 1-2-3 innings in the second, third, fourth and eighth frames and ended the night after 8.2 innings with no walks and two strikeouts. He induced 14 fly outs and 10 groundouts in 102 pitches.
“I thought Mike did a phenomenal job of competing tonight,” said head coach Mik Aoki. “We talk a lot about variables and never knowing when your number is going to be called and today was a great example of that. If you aren’t mentally checked in, this game is going to expose that. Mike did an absolutely unbelievable job of being ready to go when he was called on and battling out there on the mound. I’m proud of him.”
After allowing a couple of runners to get on base in the ninth with two outs, Hearne was removed for senior Donnie Hissa. The Iron River, Wis., native picked up his team-high tying second save of the season with a strikeout to end the game and give Notre Dame a 1-0 lead in the three-game series.
At the plate, four Irish standouts had multi-hit days. Hudgins upped his hit streak to 10 games as he had two hits and two runs. Lezynski produced his seventh three-hit game of the season with a trio of singles, two RBI and a run scored, while Johnson had two hits, two RBI and a run scored and Youngdahl had two hits and an RBI. One of Youngdahl’s hits was his team-leading fourth triple, which moves him into a tie for second in the Atlantic Coast Conference in the category.
“I thought the first five innings we did a really good job of taking advantage of their errors,” said Aoki. “I also thought we did a really great job of competing with two strikes. Those first five innings might be as good as we have looked all year offensively using a two-strike approach and understanding how the at-bats could go.”
With the win, Notre Dame improved to 10-1 in its last 11 non-conference games while upping its 2014 non-conference mark to 13-7. The Irish also evened up their “home” record to 7-7.
The Irish (17-24) and Huskies (16-22) continue their three game non-conference series at 2:05 p.m. (CT) Saturday back at the U.S. Steel Yard. Fans can listen to WatchND’s audio broadcast (WHME 103.1 FM in South Bend) or follow along through gametracker. Sunday’s finale is set for 1:05 p.m. (CT).
--Russell Dorn, Assistant Media Relations Director