The Friday night pitching showcase was pushed back a day, apparently, with two right-handed sophomores besting hitters at Plainsman Park on Saturday afternoon.
It was Casey Mize (3-0, 0.30 ERA) that got the best of Brady Singer (2-1, 1.74 ERA), although batters on both teams will be glad they don’t have to face these two again. Auburn (16-5, 2-0 SEC) beat the Gators 2-1, taking the series. It’s the first time the Florida Gators (13-7, 0-2 SEC) have lost the opening conference series since 2013. That Florida team lost two-of-three to Kentucky and finished the season 29-30.
The Tigers got on the board first in odd fashion.
Singer walked leadoff batter Jonah Todd on four pitches to start the inning. Todd advanced to second on a wild pitch and third on a balk. Singer struck out Bowen McGuffin and got Josh Anthony to ground out to shortstop. Singer was called for a second balk when he stepped off the rubber while in the motion of coming set. It was a brief mental lapse in an otherwise stellar performance.
Auburn struck again in the fourth inning. Jay Estes doubled down the left field line with one out and scored when Luke Jarvis doubled right after him.
Singer was visibly upset with himself after the balks in the third inning and the additional run in the fourth but settled down. He retired the side in order in the fifth and sixth innings, and then worked around a leadoff single in the seventh inning. The sophomore finished the day allowing two runs (both earned) through seven innings with four strikeouts on 111 pitches.
Mize was just sharper. The sophomore used a fastball, slider and split-finger to keep the Gators guessing at the plate. Mize lasted seven innings, striking out eight batters. He gave up one run in the seventh inning. Nelson Maldonado doubled to start the frame. Mize got Christian Hicks looking before walking Ryan Larson. Mark Kolozsvary reached on a catcher’s interference to load the bases. Deacon Liput grounded into a fielder’s choice double play, but Maldonado was able to score when Larson got himself into a rundown between second and third.
Andrew Baker, who started in centerfield and hit leadoff replaced Singer in the eighth inning and struck out two in a clean frame. Cole Lipscomb relieved Mize in the eighth and pitched the final two innings to earn his third save of the season for the Tigers.
Florida will look to avoid a sweep on Sunday. Jackson Kowar will take the mound for the Gators at 1 pm.