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Diaz Guides No. 5 Baseball to 6-1 Victory

Junior ace continues dominant campaign with eight innings.

Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE

Courtesy UM

DURHAM, N.C. -- No. 5 Miami received another sparkling performance on the mound from junior ace Chris Diaz Friday night, cruising to a 6-1 win over No. 30 Duke at Durham Bulls Athletic Park.

Diaz, who entered the contest tied for the conference lead in wins and boasting the seventh-best ERA among all ACC pitchers, helped Miami extend the nation's longest road winning streak to 13 consecutive games with eight brilliant innings. The Florida City, Fla., native surrendered just two hits and one earned run across the night, as Miami (36-14, 20-5 ACC) held firm on to sole possession of first place in the ACC.

"For the most part, I was attacking the hitters and making them earn everything they were getting," Diaz said.

Miami, who dropped two of three at home against the Blue Devils last spring, has not lost a game started by Diaz (9-0) in his last 14 trips to the hill. The stretch dates back to May 23, 2013 and a game against NC State in the 2013 ACC Championship - also played at Durham Bulls Athletic Park.

The win was made even sweeter for Diaz, who was tagged for a career-high 11 hits in his last outing against the Blue Devils.

"Of course - I always remember those types of outings," Diaz responded when asked of extra motivation. "I remember my start against the Wolfpack in the tournament, and I remember how Duke hit me pretty well last year. I came out here tonight with a sense of urgency, wanting to establish my pitches."

The victory marked Miami's 10th straight conference road win - the program's longest such stretch since joining the ACC in 2004 - and the 23rd win in its last 25 tries.

The Hurricanes offense delivered another strong outing of its own, tagging Duke righthander Drew Van Orden for season-high totals of six runs and seven hits. Freshman slugger Zack Collins led the offense with three hits - including his team-leading eighth home run - and three RBI.

Miami struck for three runs off Van Orden in the top of the first inning, jumping out to an early lead that was never in doubt. Tyler Palmer was hit by a pitch to follow Dale Carey's leadoff single, immediately setting up a scoring opportunity for Collins. The Pembroke Pines, Fla., native came through in his early chance, lacing an RBI double into the right-center gap to put Miami on the board at 1-0.

"We knew Van Orden is a great pitcher, so we tried to score runs early on him and get him into jams," Collins said. "It worked for us tonight."

With runners on second and third, freshman designated hitter Willie Abreu drove a Van Orden offering off the Blue Monster in leftfield to plate Palmer, giving Miami a 2-0 advantage. Despite hitting into a double play, senior Alex Hernandez managed to score Collins from third base to cap Miami's scoring at 3-0.

"It's always nice," Diaz said of pitching with a lead. "These guys have done a great job, especially on Friday nights for me. With that first inning, my job became a lot easier - I just had to throw strikes and attack the hitters."

Diaz did not allow a hit until a fifth-inning triple from Duke designated hitter David Perkins, who scored on a passed ball just one pitch later.

Van Orden (5-4) settled down after a tough first, but the Hurricanes padded to their lead on a monstrous solo home run from Collins in the sixth and two unearned runs in the seventh.

"It was a first-pitch fastball, and I always sit on those pitches to try and crush them as hard as I can," Collins said of his homer. "I wasn't trying to hit the ball out of the park, but luckily it cleared the fence."

With the bases loaded and no outs in the seventh, Carey grounded into a double play that made it 5-1. Collins' RBI single off Duke reliever Dillon Haviland - his third and final hit of the night - put Miami ahead 6-1.

Collins and Abreu combined to finish 5-for-9 with two runs and four RBI.

"It felt great to be able to give him some runs tonight. Every time someone scores, we look to Chris," Collins said. "He's the type of pitcher that - no matter what he has - he comes in that next inning and battles. He always gets the job done."

No. 5 Miami will return to Durham Bulls Athletic Park on Saturday for game two of their series with the Blue Devils. First pitch for the contest, scheduled for radio broadcast on WVUM 90.5, is set for 1 p.m.