UM 7, Oklahoma State 0

Diaz, UM offense carries Hurricanes past Cowboys in NCAA baseball regional opener

 

Special to The Miami Herald

Miami got seven stellar innings from starter Chris Diaz and 12 hits from its offense to defeat Oklahoma State 7-0 Friday at Jim Patterson Stadium in Game 1 of the Louisville regional. Assistant coach Gino DiMare was all smiles afterward.

“I’m very excited,” DiMare said.

“Back-to-back games now we’ve had shutouts, so obviously our pitchers have done a great job. I thought Chris Diaz was outstanding as he always is. He got 10 ground-ball outs and [a career-high] 10 strikeouts. The first ball they hit in the air was in the seventh inning.

“Offensively we did a little bit of everything. We felt we had to be aggressive with the pitcher we were going against. He throws a lot of strikes. Our game plan was to swing the bats and put the ball in play and put runners in motion.

“It was just a complete game. We pitched well, played good defense and swung the bats well, and I’m very, very proud of the guys under the circumstances.”

Those circumstances involve head coach Jim Morris, still in a Duke University hospital room awaiting release after being admitted for pneumonia last week during the ACC tournament. DiMare was talking to Morris as he walked into the postgame press conference.

“Coach Morris called to say he’s very happy and proud for the guys,” DiMare said. “He’s not going to be able to be here for the regional. It’s got to be tough sitting there in that bed, with Coach being the competitor that he is.”

DiMare said Morris is able to watch the games on a computer in his hospital room. The players, meanwhile, set out quickly to give him something to smile about.

Diaz set the tone early, getting three groundouts to second base in the first inning, then striking out two batters to escape a bases-loaded jam in the second. Two of those runners reached base via the walk, the one bugaboo of Diaz’ performance as he also set a career high with five bases on balls.

But every time his wildness got him in trouble, his talent bailed him out.

The game was played in overcast conditions, and as rain started pouring in the home half of the second inning the Hurricanes’ produced some thunder of their own. Catcher Garrett Kennedy hit a home run down the left-field line for the first run of the game, his third and his team’s 14th of the season.

“I put a good swing on a good pitch,” said Kennedy. “He was pitching pretty well but he got one up in the zone and I just got a good swing on it.”

Second baseman Alex Hernandez flashed some leather in the fourth inning, going far to his right to snag a chopper up the middle to throw Robbie Rea out at first.

As is often the case, good defense seemed to stimulate good offense.

In the bottom of the fourth, Chantz Mack led off with a walk. With Oklahoma State first baseman Tanner Krietemeier holding Mack on at first, Brad Fieger was able to chop a single over Krietemeier’s head, putting Mack on third. Mack then scored on a single up the middle by Kennedy.

Diaz once again loaded the bases in the fifth inning thanks to two more walks, but struck out Randy McCurry to end the threat. Then in the bottom of the inning the Miami offense blew it open.

Tyler Palmer doubled to left, and Hernandez laid down a sacrifice bunt that Oklahoma State pitcher Jason Hursh threw into right field. Palmer scored on the play and Hernandez went to second base. He then scored on a single by David Thompson. Thompson stole second, then scored from there on an infield single by Kennedy when the defense threw to first. Kennedy later scored on a fielding error by right fielder Zach Fish. When the inning was finally over Miami led 6-0, and the Hurricanes came into the game 28-2 when scoring five runs or more.

Miami added another run in the sixth when Mack singled home Palmer.

Javi Salas pitched the eighth inning and Jace Herrera the ninth to finish off the shutout, only the second time Oklahoma State had failed to score this season.

With the win, Miami improved to 37-23 and the Hurricanes will play (Louisville/Bowling Green winner) Saturday at 5 p.m.

Winning this game was huge,” DiMare said. “If you lose this game, now you’re talking about having to play five games. There’s a chance you only play three games if you win them all. And with Chris going as deep as he did into the game today we were able to save some of the arms in the back of the pen.”

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