Auburn, Ala.--Pitching stole the show on Saturday for the Auburn Tigers as starter Casey Mize and reliever Cole Lipscomb combined to allow just one run on five hits as Coach Butch Thompson’s team defeated No. 5 Florida 2-1 to take the series.
With the win Auburn improves to 16-5 overall and 2-0 in SEC play while the Gators fall to 13-7, 0-2. The Tigers will be looking for just their second-ever sweep of Florida on Sunday with the only other happening in 1987.
“I thought that was a really high-level college baseball game,” Thompson said. “Just as much as I like watching our guys perform and have success, Brady Singer, that’s about as good as I can remember seeing in a while. He just threw the baseball extremely well.
“Both sides are competing every pitch. That was a battle. I really enjoyed Casey Mize battling and he’s my guy so I know I love him. It was just a high-level baseball game that could have went either way.”
Earning his third win of the year, Mize allowed just one run on five hits in seven innings while striking out eight Florida hitters. For the season his ERA drops to 0.30 and he has struck out 46 and walked just five in 29 2/3 innings.
Not to be outdone, Lipscomb pitched two hitless innings of relief to earn his third save of the year. Starting in the fall the plan has been to pitch Lipscomb behind Mize as a one-two punch for the Tigers and for the third time this year it worked to perfection.
“I felt good,” Mize said. “Damon (Haecker) did a great job behind the plate keeping me confident. Me and him were kind of synched up today, we were on the same page. My stuff was good today. I got a little sloppy at the end.
“We brought Cole in at the right time and he was sharp. I felt good overall today.”
For Lipscomb the Saturday performance was something that has been almost seven months in the works. Never getting a start in fall practice, the senior has been exclusively in the bullpen for the Tigers since September and he said having a day like Saturday only makes him more sure that it was the right move for him and the team.
“We got some work with this situation in the pre-conference,” Lipscomb said. “That’s something that helped our confidence as well as Coach Thompson to get whatever you can out of Casey, which today was seven strong, and then when I get in the game he tells me to finish it. It’s something Casey and I have done and we’ve been successful at it. If it keeps working hopefully we’ll win a lot of ballgames this year.”
Auburn shortstop Luke Jarvis had three hits on Saturday with right fielder Jay Estes with the other two hits for the Tigers on the day
Facing former second round selection Brady Singer on the mound for the Gators, Auburn threatened in the second as the Tigers loaded the bases to put the heat on early. Reaching on an error, Dylan Ingram moved to second on a Jay Estes single to bring Luke Jarvis to the plate. Lacing a single to center field, Jarvis’ hit was too hot to score Ingram as Coach Doug Sisson held him at third to load the bases with one out. Unfortunately for the Tigers they couldn’t get the run across as Damon Haecker struck out with a Will Holland fly ball ending the inning.
In the third Auburn finally pushes a run across and it was entirely on the shoulders of Singer. Walking to lead things off, Jonah Todd advanced to second on wild pitch with no outs and a balk moved him to third with no outs and the heart of order coming to the plate. Just missing a double twice, Bowen McGuffin struck out looking before a Josh Anthony ground ball for out two. Before Daniel Robert could do any damage the second balk of the inning scored Todd from third to make it 1-0 Auburn.
The Tigers added to the lead in the fourth thanks to a pair of big swings. With one out and nobody on Jay Estes laced a double to left field to bring Luke Jarvis to the plate. Getting a pitch to handle, Jarvis drilled a double just under the glove of Jonathan India at third base to easily score Estes for a two-run lead.
In the fifth the Gators got something going against Mize for the first time. Singles by Nelson Maldonado and Christian Hicks started the rally for Florida and when Ryan Larson ripped a single to left it meant the bases were loaded with no outs for the Gators.
Facing catcher Mark Kolozsvary, Mize got a high chopper to third that Anthony fielded on the run. His throw the Damon Haecker at the plate cut down Maldonado for the first out. Getting Deacon Liput on a foul ball for the second out, Mize retired Andrew Baker on a ground ball to keep Florida from scoring.
Before first out was recorded in the inning Thompson took a trip to the mound and brought the entire infield in along with Mize and Haecker. The sophomore pitcher said it was just a message of belief from the coach and it was important to him.
“Have conviction in your pitches and be confident,” Mize said of the message from his coach. “We just kind of went over what the gameplan was and told all the guys I was going out of the windup. He (Thompson) just told me to keep peeking at third and be confident we were going to get out of it.”
In the seventh the Gators again loaded the bases, this time with one out. Facing number nine hitter Deacon Liput, Mize got a sinking line drive right at Jarvis. Handcuffed on the play, Jarvis couldn’t handle the ball but flipped to Holland for the second out. Choosing to get the runner from second going to third, Holland ran him down before flipping to Anthony who applied the tag to end the inning. While that was happening the Florida runner crossed the plate to put the Gators on the board.
That would be it for Florida as Auburn took the series with a 2-1 victory and just the eighth 2-0 SEC start in school history.
The Tigers will go for the sweep on Sunday with freshman Davis Daniel taking the mound against Florida. The first pitch is scheduled for 1 p.m.