DURHAM — Duke had been confident heading into its matchup with Miami pitcher Chris Diaz. After all, the Blue Devils had touched him up for 11 hits and beat him last year.
But the junior showed how much he has improved and why he is projected to leave school in this June’s MLB Draft. Behind eight innings of two-hit baseball from Diaz, No. 8 Miami coasted to a 6-1 victory over Duke at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park.
Duke (30-19, 15-10 ACC) wanted to work deep into counts to push Diaz’s pitch count higher. But with him throwing his fastball, cutter and change-up all for strikes, the Blue Devils were generally quick outs. It only took Diaz 42 pitches to work through the first four innings, with just two hits leaving the infield. He finished with 103 pitches, three walks and five strikeouts over eight innings. Cooper Hammond came on and pitched a scoreless ninth for the Hurricanes (36-14, 20-5 ACC).
“By all scouting reports that we had, we knew he had made a jump from last year to this year in terms of his performance,” Duke head coach Chris Pollard said of Diaz. “He was just really in control out there on the mound tonight. Moved it to both sides of the plate, pitched off his cutter, threw his change-up a little more than we anticipated. He’s just a very elite arm.”
Miami has won the last 14 times Diaz has taken the mound, a streak dating back to the 2013 ACC tournament (a 7-1 loss to N.C. State on May 24). Both of Duke’s two hits off of Diaz came in the fifth inning. With one out, designated hitter David Perkins ripped a 2-1 pitch off the blue monster in left-center field for a triple. Moments later, he came home on a passed ball. Left fielder Ryan Deitrich lined a two-out single to center. And that was the extent of the Blue Devils’ offense against Diaz.
“He was just really in the zone this time around,” catcher Mike Rosenfeld said of Diaz. “He just attacked our hitters, and when he wasn’t in the zone, he was nitpicking at the corners and making us swing at his good pitches.”
Miami wasted no time getting on the board against Duke starter Drew Van Orden, putting three runs across through their first five at-bats. A leadoff single, hit by pitch, double, single and double-play ball that drove in a run was enough offense for the rest of the night. Van Orden pitched well until a Zack Collins home run in the sixth and in the seventh inning, when he surrendered two more runs. Van Orden was responsible for all six Miami runs (five earned).
Collins, a freshman, finished 3-for-4 with a single, double and home run. Pollard said Duke would watch video of his at-bats later and have a new plan for him Saturday afternoon.
Duke is on the bubble for the NCAA tournament – the Blue Devils haven’t made the field since 1961 – and need to win this series to realistically keep the dream alive. Rosenfeld, though, shot down the idea that Saturday’s game is a must-win.
“You never want to say must-win,” he said. “We still have a chance to win this series, so we’re just going to come out and play loose. The looser team is going to win the ballgame.”