In his first start since being selected No. 1 overall in the 2018 MLB Draft by the Detroit Tigers and potentially his last start as an Auburn Tiger, Casey Mize was not enough to hold down the No. 1 Florida Gators.
Florida put two crooked numbers on the board against Mize, four runs in the third inning and two in the fifth, to blow past Auburn 8-2 in the opening game of the Gainesville Super Regional.
Mize lasted just five innings and allowed six runs, his second such start in the last month, while walking a career-high four batters and striking out five.
“Today I think he misfired more than I’ve seen him misfire,” said Auburn head coach Butch Thompson of Mize’s outing. “I think today’s was different than the ones we were referencing here in the last month or so. All credit to Florida there. He’s resilient and I could tell that hurt him today. He was excited about today. He’s handled himself as mature as any player I’ve ever been around.”
Mize’s start on Saturday mirrored his worst start of the season, a 8-2 loss at Ole Miss on May 11. In that start, Mize allowed six runs on eight hits in five innings of work. He struck out just five, the same as his start against the Gators Saturday.
“I thought the splitter was okay when I located it down, but I left it up a few times. Slider was pretty good, but the fastball command wasn’t there and the cutter wasn’t sharp,” Mize said. “I didn’t throw a lot of strikes. I walked four guys and hit one. I don’t know the last time I walked four guys. I just couldn’t get ahead. I couldn’t stay in the strike zone.”
The Springville, Alabama, native allowed just one run on four hits over seven innings in a win over Army last Saturday in the Raleigh Regional, but in his last four starts against SEC opponents (at Ole Miss, vs. LSU, vs. Texas A&M, at Florida), Mize has surrendered 20 earned runs in 23 2/3 innings.
Auburn led 2-0 through two and a half innings on a pair of RBI singles by Josh Anthony and Edouard Julien. Julien’s RBI single gave him the Auburn record for RBI by a freshman, giving the Canadian 69 RBI on the season.
However, the Tigers blew a handful of opportunities to widen their lead, going 2-for-9 with runners in scoring position in the first three innings of the ballgame.
Florida’s four-run third inning started with a pair of one-out singles by Deacon Liput and Nelson Maldonado and a walk to Jonathan India.
Wil Dalton came through with the big hit of the inning with a line drive single off the right field wall to score two runs and tie the game at two apiece.
The Gators scored two more in the inning on a fielders’ choice by Austin Langworthy and a RBI single by Keenan Bell.
Florida tallied two more runs in the fifth inning off Mize on a pair of errors by Will Holland and Anthony.
Liput and Maldonado added two more runs for the Gators with their ninth and eighth home runs of the season, respectively, off Auburn reliever Davis Daniel.
The offensive outburst was plenty for Florida starter Brady Singer, who held Auburn to two runs over 6.2 innings. The SEC Pitcher of the Year allowed just four hits and struck out nine to earn his 12th win of the season.
Saturday marked the second time this season that Singer outdueled Mize, the first coming on April 26 when the Gators defeated Auburn 3-1.
Auburn’s season will be on the line in game two of the Gainesville Super Regional on Sunday, as the Gators are just one win away from their fourth consecutive College World Series appearance.
Auburn will give the ball to freshman Tanner Burns, who is 7-4 with a 3.12 ERA, in the must-win situation. Jackson Kowar (9-5, 3.38 ERA) will start for the Gators.
“We’re down to nine innings,” Thompson said. ‘We’ll come out and try to force something.”
First pitch is set for 11 a.m. CST on ESPN.