For the first time all season, Auburn dropped a game started by Casey Mize last week at No. 7 Kentucky, as the Wildcats rallied in the ninth inning to win 5-4.
Mize and the Tigers made sure that did not become a continuing trend Friday night, as No. 9 Auburn knocked off No. 24 Missouri 5-2 behind Mize’s strong 7.1 innings of work.
Mize, who improved to 6-0, allowed two runs on five hits over his seven and a third innings. The junior struck out seven without allowing a walk.
“We’ve had Tim Hudson come in here and Scott Sullivan, some of Auburn’s greatest pitchers and they talk about pitching in the big leagues and what separates the guys that are really, really good are the nights when you don’t have your best stuff,” Auburn coach Butch Thompson said.
“I thought Missouri had a great plan and I did not think Casey had his best stuff in a month, but that guy navigated because he has maturity, he’s a competitor and he knows how to pitch.”
Missouri struck first as Trey Harris launched the first pitch of the night from Mize to center field for a solo homer.
“It was pretty frustrating. Obviously didn’t have my best stuff,” Mize said. “I just had to kind of reset, shove the ball in the zone and let my defense work.
“Being out there for as long as you can is something the Friday night guy has to do to set your team up for success. The fact that I could go out there and get 7.1 innings in is pretty big.”
It did not take long for Auburn to take the lead back, as Brendan Venter and Brett Wright gave the Tigers a pair of runs in the bottom half of the first inning with RBI singles.
Venter and Wright paired up again in the sixth inning to drive in two runs for Auburn, with a RBI single and sacrifice fly, respectively.
After Missouri trimmed Auburn’s lead to 4-2 in the top of the seventh, Edouard Julien gave the Tigers their final run of the night with a solo shot to right field.
Calvin Coker, who has pitched in four of the Tigers’ last five games, held Missouri hitless over the final 1.2 innings to earn his team-high sixth save of the season.
Venter, Will Holland and Josh Anthony each recorded two hits for the Tigers in the opening game of the three-game series.
Missouri starter TJ Sikkema (2-1) took his first loss of the season, allowing four runs on six hits over six innings of work.
Auburn (22-5, 4-3) and Missouri (19-7, 3-4) will continue the three-game set on Saturday. First pitch inside Plainsman Park is set for 6 p.m. CST.