Zach Collins hit the game-winning solo home run as he tagged Andrew Istler’s second offering of the sixth inning over the wall in left field and broke open a tie ballgame to give Miami a 3-2 victory over the Duke Blue Devils.
He credited first-base coach Gino DiMare with giving him some pre-game scouting on Istler that led to his blast.
“I was sitting there on a change up, thinking that was what he was going to throw, and it was a change up and I turned on it and it left the park,” Collins said. “Gino said that when he misses with an 1-0 fastball, he likes to come back with the change up and that is what I expected and that is what he did.”
Miami coach Jim Morris playfully chastised Collins and said that he should not give away team secrets in case they see Istler again. Morris was also quick to praise his young catcher who won yet another game for the Hurricanes.
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“I am a real big believer in game winning hits, and Zach had one tonight boy,” Morris said. “That was a nice shot that he hit and he put us in a position to win the game.”
Miami hurler Andrew Suarez struck out a career-high 12 batters and did not give up an earned run through the eighth inning, as the Miami Hurricanes claimed their fourth consecutive series win over an ACC opponent.
“I really like where we are in terms of the conference play, this was another conference win for us,” Morris said. “We lead our division by a couple of games and we play most of the remainder of our games at home and I really like where we are. This is where you want to be.”
This was the longest outing that the left hander has had this season since returning from his early-season oblique injury. After yielding five hits through the first five innings, Suarez (3-0) settled down and struck out the side in the sixth and eighth innings.
“Suarez pitched an outstanding game tonight,” Morris said. “He pitched real solid and had the big night for us.”
Istler, the Blue Devils’ ace since the season-ending injury to pre-season All-American Michael Matuella, entered the game having walked only six batters in his last seven games. He walked two Hurricanes during the first five innings. Istler (2-2) was pulled in the eighth inning and yielded eight hits on the night.
After walking Carl Chester in the fifth inning, Ricky Eusebio doubled down the line in left field to put runners and second and third with two outs. Garrett Kennedy then singled to left center scoring both Chester and Eusebio. At the close of the fifth inning, Miami and Duke were tied at 2-2. Kennedy had three hits on the night which tied a career high.
Duke took advantage of two Miami errors in the third inning to take an early 2-0 lead. Mike Rosenfeld put down a perfect bunt with runners on first and second that UM third baseman David Thompson could not handle cleanly and make a good throw to first. His throw to the base sailed over Christopher Barr’s head and Max Miller and Andy Perez both scored on the errant throw.
“We played real solid defense tonight with the exception of that one inning where they took advantage of our mistakes,” Morris said. “We made some big plays in the field and it was a great ball game. I thought we played pretty solid all the way around.”
Chester, the freshman outfielder who was moved to the bottom of the lineup due to his failure to get on base enough in recent weeks, went 1-for-2 with a walk. Morris would like to see Chester return to the top of the order, but will wait until his bat comes back as well.
“I would rather he bat at the top of the order and then put Ricky [Eusebio] behind him and let those guys set the table for David and Zach,” Morris said. “We have to get his speed on the base paths. He is the fastest guy that we have had here in a long time and we just need his bat to come around. He will get there.”