SOUTH BEND, Ind. – Notre Dame’s junior shortstop Lane Richards (Pendleton, OR/Pendleton) is leading the Irish in what has turned out to be an amazing 2015 season. After undergoing Tommy John surgery in April of 2014, Richards has rehabbed and resurfaced—after missing the end of last year’s season—to perform at the plate with undeniable consistency.
No player ever wants to hear the news that they are going to have to have Tommy John surgery. Even though the recovery rate is almost 85 percent, there is still that concern that looms in the back of each athletes mind that they won’t be the same, or even come back at all if the surgery failed to achieve the desired results.
“I was disappointed at first,” Richards told College Baseball Central. “My biggest fear was obviously that I wasn’t going to be able to come back a hundred percent, and that I’d never be the same. When I first found out that I had to get it, and that I would be missing the last 20 games of the season, the hardest thing for me was that I wouldn’t be there for my teammates.”
Richards went through the surgery, and did it like a champ, returning to the starting lineup for the beginning of the 2015 season, and in top form i.e., 100 percent. Which Richards has demonstrated on the diamond this year with a .934 fielding percentage together with 39 put outs.
“I owe a lot of credit to my trainer Scott Stansbury,” Richards stated. “I went to him at least once a day, sometimes twice a day going to rehab doing shoulder strengthening exercises, stretching a lot and making sure I didn’t take any days off. I always looked at the rehab schedule and did what I had to do that day to stay on track.”
Possessing an unbelievable arm and suave technique at the shortstop position, Richards has put together an outstanding performance at the dish this season as well. The 6 foot 197 pound three-hole hitter is batting .295 (third on team), and leads the team in RBI (19). He has performed best when the pressure is on, batting .423 and going 22-for-52 when runners are on base.
Even more miraculous, Richards is 4-for-6 with the bases loaded holding an average of .667 in that situation. His RISP is through the roof, going 14-for-36 and batting .389. If there is a runner on third base with less than two outs when Richards comes to bat, forget about it, his .778 average says that guy is coming home. He’s 7-for-9 in that circumstance, and is also tied for first on the team with seven two-out RBIs.
“We have been doing a lot of mental conditioning as a team,” Richards credited to his success at the plate. “Working on our approach at the plate, working on our breathing, between every pitch I take a breath and really slow down my at bat. I take it pitch by pitch instead of looking at games as a whole. I look at it like whether I won that individual pitch or not.”
Notre Dame (17-10, 3-9 ACC) has experienced success this year, surprising a lot of nay-sayers with their ability to jump out quick on opposing teams and finish strong for the win. Last year the Irish struggled ending the season 22-31 with a 9-21 record in Atlantic Coast Conference play.
“This team is unlike any team I’ve ever played for,” Richards said. “Our chemistry is phenomenal we have a lot of fun together, and even in big games we are still having fun. We get through every day on its own and just try to enjoy the time that we have.”
The Irish are at a pivotal point here at the midseason mark, after hosting elite ACC programs Louisville (No. 6), and Virginia (No. 15) and being swept at home by both clubs in three-game series, Notre Dame heads out on the road and finds themselves with an urgent need to win the series against conference foe Pitt (11-16, 4-8 ACC).
Head coach Mik Aoki will look to Richards to continue his domination at the plate, and if they can get out of the Steel City and Charles L. Cost Field with a series win tucked under their belt, the Irish will be back on track and should absorb valuable momentum as they head back home to welcome a surging Florida State (24-7, 10-3 ACC) team for a three-game series and more conference action.