Miami (Fla.) takes down Virginia as coach Jim Morris notches 900th win
CORAL GABLES, Fla. -- Freshman slugger Zack Collins connected on a two-run home run to break a tie game in the sixth inning, and No. 25 Miami topped No. 3 Virginia 7-1 in head coach Jim Morris' 900th win at the helm of the Hurricanes.
"I thought it was a complete team effort," Morris said. "Our team played exceptional defense, we got really good pitching, and of course we scored some runs."
Despite the big hit from Collins, a matchup featuring two of the premier lefthanders in the ACC -- Miami's Chris Diaz and Virginia's Nathan Kirby -- did not disappoint. Offense was stymied for most of the night, as the two teams combined for just three hits -- all singles -- through the game's first five innings.
After going ahead 3-1, Miami (13-10, 5-2 ACC) tacked on four insurance runs in the eighth, while Bryan Garcia recorded his sixth save of the season with 1.2 clean innings of relief.
Down 1-0 on an infield RBI single from Nick Howard in the top half of the sixth, Miami rallied for three runs in the bottom of the frame to take a 3-1 lead. An RBI groundout from Willie Abreu tied the game 1-1, and Collins' fourth homer of the year -- a mammoth blast off Kirby over the fence in rightfield -- gave Miami the lead. The home run was the fourth for Collins and first allowed this season by Kirby, whose scoreless streak was snapped at 26.1 innings.
"2-0 count in a tie ballgame, I'm trying to put the ball off the bat hard," Collins said of his home run swing. "You try to hit it as hard as you can everytime. I just made a great connection."
When asked if he knew the ball would clear the fence, Collins smiled.
"Oh yeah, I knew it."
Virginia put together a scoring opportunity in the eighth, but a breathtaking catch from senior Dale Carey, who sprinted towards the wall and fully extended to haul in a deep fly ball from Howard, helped Garcia work out of the jam. The incredible defensive play from Carey earned a lengthy standing ovation from the crowd of 3,337.
"I just remember he hit it, I was running, and at the last second I realized I had a chance," Carey said. "Me and Willie were both going into the gap at the same time, I called 'ball' and I laid out."
Morris added further praise for his star centerfielder, who finished the night 1-for-5 at the plate.
"That catch might be the best catch I have ever seen," he said. "That was huge. If that ball drops, the game is tied."
After a disappointing start last time out against Georgia Tech, Diaz (5-1) rebounded with a terrific performance against one of the top offenses in the conference. He set down the first 10 Cavaliers batters on the night, and did not allow a hit until an infield single to Daniel Pinero in the fourth. After Diaz walked Virginia slugger Mike Papi to put two runners on base, the southpaw induced a 6-4-3 double play from Virginia first baseman Nick Howard to end the threat.
"It was a huge win for us [against] one of the top five teams in the country," Diaz said. "To be able to take the opening [game] puts us in a good place tomorrow. ...We played really well."
Diaz said he entered the start with confidence, despite getting tagged for five runs against the Yellow Jackets.
"In the bullpen, I felt all my pitches were working," he said. "I went into the game confident that I could throw every pitch for a strike, and that's what happened tonight."
The lefthander went a season high-tying 7.1 innings in the outing, scattering five hits and just one run. Senior Alex Hernandez nearly saved that lone Virginia run with a web gem in the sixth, fielding a high chopper and firing to first an instant after Nick Howard reached the base. Kenny Towns scored all the way from second on the play to put the Cavaliers ahead 1-0.
Collins broke the 1-1 deadlock in the sixth. He finished the game 1-for-3 with two runs and two RBI, as Miami tagged Virginia starter Nathan Kirby (5-1) for season-high totals of five hits and three runs.
"It's an amazing feeling every time you hit a home run or even get a hit," Collins said. "For a guy to be going out there and to be pitching his butt off trying to win this game - he's out there for six innings and we haven't scored a run. To pick him up like that, it felt amazing."
A two-RBI double from Brandon Lopez and a sacrifice fly from Garrett Kennedy helped Miami pad its lead to 7-1 by the ninth inning.