CORAL GABLES, Fla. – No. 20 Miami extended the nation’s second-longest winning streak to 10 consecutive games Friday night, cruising to a 12-2 victory over visiting Pittsburgh at Alex Rodriguez Park at Mark Light Field.
Coming off back-to-back ACC road sweeps, Miami continued its momentum with consistent hitting and dominant pitching. Junior lefthander Chris Diaz (6-0) delivered 6.0+ strong innings – striking out a career high-tying 10 batters and allowing just six hits – while the Hurricane offense scored at least one run in seven of eight innings.
“It was a great win for us,” head coach Jim Morris said. “The streak extending to 10 is nice, but our guys are playing well as a team. It’s a team effort – we had good pitching, good hitting, good defense, and it’s a combination of a lot of things to make that happen.”
The Hurricanes (23-12, 12-4 ACC), who have not lost a game started by Diaz dating back to May 2013, jumped out to an early lead and tacked on late in a win that was never in doubt. Diaz threw 102 pitches, just one short of his season high, in front of 2,991 fans.
“We’re playing and just having fun,” Diaz said. “We’re trying to keep this going as long as we can. We have Andy [Suarez] going tomorrow, and we feel like we can keep winning.”
Miami’s 10-game overall winning streak mirrored a similar run to open the 2013 regular season, while the Hurricanes’ seven straight ACC wins matches the fourth-longest streak in program history. Capitalizing on Panthers pitching mistakes across the night, Miami plated runs in the game’s first four innings to take a 6-0 lead. Miami drew 12 walks, which matched a season high, scoring three runs on wild pitches and another on a failed pickoff attempt.
Two-RBI doubles from seniors Tyler Palmer and Brad Fieger helped send Miami to a six-run lead by the fourth, which was more than Diaz needed to earn his team-leading sixth win.
Diaz, who allowed just two runs in the sixth inning, attributed one pitch in particular to his successful night.
“My fastball,” Diaz said when asked of his key to success. “I had that one inning in the sixth where I walked a guy and allowed a hit, but otherwise I felt really good,”
Pitt starting pitcher Sam Mersing (1-2), who was placed into the lineup on an emergency basis due to shoulder tightness suffered by Rhys Aldenhoven during warm-up, allowed a leadoff single to senior Dale Carey to open the night. Carey took second on a sacrifice bunt and later scored by taking two bases on a wild pitch from Mersing, opening the game’s scoring in favor of the Hurricanes.
“It all started with Dale playing heads-up baseball, scoring from second in the first,” Diaz said. “We took the lead, and I was trying to go out there, get ahead of hitters, get outs and keep our team close.”
Palmer’s double in the second scored Carey and Johnny Ruiz to make it 3-0, while a wild pitch from Aldenhoven – who eventually took the mound in the third in relief of Mersing – scored sophomore Brandon Lopez to make it 4-0. Fieger drove in two runs with his eighth double of the season to make it 6-0 in the fourth.
After Pittsburgh (16-17, 8-8 ACC) cut the lead to 6-2 in the sixth on a two-RBI double from Steven Shelinsky, another pitching mistake – this one an error on a pickoff attempt – saw Miami regain a five-run lead. The Hurricanes blew the game open in the seventh, when a bloop RBI single from Carey and a two-RBI double from Willie Abreu made it 10-2.
Carey finished the night 3-for-5 with three runs and one RBI. He reached base four times on the night, bringing his season batting average up to .292.
“I was looking for a pitch to hit,” Carey said of his night. “I was trying to be patient, looking for something I can drive, and it ended up working. I need to just keep the same approach.”
Morris was proud of the way his team competed against a formidable conference foe.
“Pittsburgh is a good club, and we had a big night tonight,” Morris said. “They’ve had a lot of good wins. We just have to be ready to come out and play tomorrow.”
No. 20 Miami returns to Alex Rodriguez Park at Mark Light Field for game two of its series with the Panthers on Saturday, April 12. First pitch is set for 7 p.m.