In a dominating pitching affair, pitcher Casey Mize led No. 23 Auburn (24-11, 5-8) to a 2-1 victory over the Mississippi State Bulldogs in the first game of the three-game weekend series.
After being named National Pitcher of the Month by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association, Mize took the mound to try and end the Tigers' four-game losing skid, and he delivered.
Throwing a complete game, Mize struck out nine State batters, adding to his season total of 86. Mize threw 106 pitches on the night, one short of his career high, with 76 being strikes, equating to 72 percent of his total pitches. The complete game was Mize’s second of the year and fourth of his career.
“Special pitcher," Auburn head coach Butch Thompson said. "He keeps redefining that so many times for us when his team needed him the most."
The start of the first inning looked to be another rough night for the Tigers, as Mize gave up a single to Mississippi State leadoff man Jake Mangum. After a strike out and a fly out, Mangum was on second with two outs. State’s Hunter Stovall then singled to center and Mangum headed home on a seemingly routine RBI play.
Auburn center fielder Jay Estes had other plans, however, as he rifled a ball home from shallow center field that nabbed Mangum at the plate.
"Those guys are the difference makers," Thompson said about the Tigers' defense. "Our guys were making plays that impacted the game in a real positive nature.”
No defensive errors on the night were key to aiding Mize’s dominating effort.
Following suit with the momentum swing, the Auburn bats came alive and in the bottom of the second and third innings. Auburn led off both innings with doubles, by Brett Wright and Estes, respectively. Those doubles resulted in the only two runs Auburn would need Friday night.
In the sixth inning, with Auburn leading 2-0, Mize gave up a RBI triple to Tanner Allen with one out, putting the game-tying run only 90 feet from home. Mize then dazzled with his glove as he snagged two ground balls, back-to-back, to end the inning and ignite his team once more.
This game was Mize’s to win, and he put the team on his back, and delivered in the clutch.
In the eighth inning, when Auburn needed him most, Mize only needed just four pitches to retire all three Bulldogs he faced.
Mize set down Mississippi State in order in the ninth inning to finish off the one-run victory.
“There was no way that I was coming off the mound tonight," Mize said. “You have to be very confident in your ability. We got our swagger back and got back to playing like we can play. Tonight we showed that and it went our way. We’ve got to come out tomorrow and try to do it again."
“The biggest thing I would point out tonight is a lot of times when you’re really trying to get a program going, this is still our second full season, these guys are just battling so hard. Usually you get a little momentum going and people kind of rally behind you and show up at the ballpark. This was different tonight," Thompson said of the announced crowd of 3,831 at Plainsman Park.
"This was a seminal moment for me personally because we got a crowd that showed up to back our team, our program, and stand in the gap and help us on a Friday night in the SEC when we’re not playing our best baseball. That defines Auburn Family for me and I want to say thank you to every fan. I can’t tell you what it means to these young men."
Auburn will look to notch another conference victory Saturday afternoon as the series continues with the Bulldogs. First pitch at Plainsman Park is set for 2 p.m. CST.