Powered by a four-run first inning and a solo home run from senior Tyler Palmer in the second, the No. 13 Miami Hurricanes held on for a 6-3 win over visiting Maine on Opening Day at Mark Light Field.
“On our opening night, it’s a big win for us,” said head coach Jim Morris, who guided the Canes to their seventh straight win on Opening Day. “We played five freshmen, got some guys in there, and Tyler Palmer had a big night.”
Junior lefthander Chris Diaz (1-0) threw five strong innings in his season debut for Miami (1-0), striking out seven Black Bears batters and allowing just one earned run. Diaz, who ranked second in the conference with a 1.64 ERA in 2013, scattered six hits and three walks in the outing.
“It’s always nice to start out with a team win, especially on opening night,” Diaz said. “I felt good out there. I could have done a little better. I could have gone after hitters [more]. I’m just ready to come back next week.”
Starting three freshmen from its vaunted recruiting class in the lineup, Miami got its offense going in a hurry – aided by eight walks from Maine pitching on the night. Five of those came in the first, when the Hurricanes (1-0) batted around against Maine junior righthander Tommy Lawrence (0-1) and scored all four of their runs on bases-loaded walks.
“He had great stuff, he just couldn’t get his fast ball over for a strike,” Palmer said. “The umpire had a small zone, we made him pitch, and we took advantage.”
Back-to-back infield hits from outfielders Dale Carey and Palmer opened the action, while Lawrence walked five of the next six batters to give Miami the early 4-0 advantage. David Thompson, Ricky Eusebio, Garrett Kennedy and Alex Hernandez were each credited with RBI in the inning.
After the long layover in the first, Diaz found himself in a jam to start the second by allowing back-to-back singles and a walk. The Florida City, Fla., native worked his way out of the situation, however, yielding just one run by sandwiching two groundouts around a strikeout to maintain a 4-1 lead.
“There were a couple of situations where I had to bear down and throw some good pitches,” Diaz said. “I felt like I did that, and that’s why I was able to get out of it.”
The Hurricanes added a solo shot from Palmer, who finished 3-for-4 with two runs and two RBI, in the second inning. The three hits matched a career high for the senior captain.
“I’ve been hitting the ball well, seeing it well, and I took advantage of some of the counts I had,” Palmer said. “He had a 1-1 count when I hit the home run. He missed with a slider, came back with a fastball, and I got a good pitch to hit.”