College Station, Tex.--For the second straight week on a Friday night it was the Casey Mize show as the sophomore allowed just two hits in seven innings and struck out 12 as the No. 7 Auburn Tigers beat Texas A&M 2-1 to improve to 8-2 in SEC play and 24-8 overall on the season.
Outfielder Jay Estes provided the all the offense the Tigers would need with a two-run double in the third inning and Mize, Cole Lipscomb and Andrew Mitchell made it stand up with a strong performance on the mound. Despite allowing a solo homer in the ninth, the Tigers kept Texas A&M (20-11, 3-7) off balance all night led by Mize.
“If you watched it I think it was actually as good or better than last week to be honest with you,” Coach Butch Thompson said of Mize’s performance. “I just thought every time his back got against the wall he stepped it up a notch and made a pitch. It was just a special outing.
“It’s a good run for him with a lot of confidence and I have a lot of faith and trust in him,” he added. “He got us there. He got us to the finish line with Cole. Tough to get out of the eighth and Andrew Mitchell really handled an environment for us tonight. He came in and picked it up and got out of the ninth. What a team victory tonight.”
Once again it was Mize that delivered on the mound for Auburn. Throwing 113 pitches and only allowing one runner to reach second base in seven innings, the sophomore was dominant against a Texas A&M team that was coming off a series win on the road at LSU last weekend.
“It was a lot of fun,” Mize said. “This place is really cool to pitch at. It’s kind of like they are standing on top of you. The stuff was not as sharp in the beginning, but I kind of settled in. It was kind of similar to last week with the feel. I felt pretty good.”
The anticipated pitching matchup lived up to advance billing with a pair of strong innings each from Mize and Texas A&M starter Brigham Hill before the Auburn offense finally got things going in the third inning. With one out and Damon Haecker on first after reaching on a fielder’s choice, freshman second baseman Will Holland singled through the left side to put runners on first and second for the top of the order.
Back in the leadoff spot, Estes didn’t waste any time making Hill pay on missing his spot. Turning on an inside pitch, the junior ripped a ball just inside the third base bag that went all the way into the corner. The double easily scored both runners to put Auburn in front 2-0.
That broke a 14-inning scoreless streak for Hill and gave Mize all the run support he would need on this night.
Still clinging to the two-run lead, the Tigers had a chance to add some insurance runs in the top of the sixth with Hill still in the game. Leading off the inning with a single, Luke Jarvis stole second before Josh Anthony walked to put two on with nobody out.
Attempting to play small ball and bunt the runners up, Bowen McGuffin couldn’t get the job done as he struck out on three bunt attempts for the first out. When Dylan Ingram hit into an inning-ending double play not only had Auburn failed to score, but they put the momentum on the Aggies for the first time in the game.
It didn’t matter for Mize however as he struck out two more Aggies in the inning to keep the home team at bay and keep the lead at two.
Auburn again had a shot to add to its lead in the seventh with a two-out double by Estes and Todd hit by a pitch to put two runners on base again for Robert. It was the third straight at-bat that Robert came up with two runners on base and for the third time he came up short, this time hitting a ground ball to end the inning.
For the first time on the night the Aggies threatened against Mize in the seventh when a one-out walk to Joel Davis and a single by Hunter Coleman put the tying runs on base for left fielder Walker Pennington. Reaching down deep, Mize got a big strikeout for the second out to bring right fielder Blake Kopetsky to the plate. Once again the Springville native answered the bell with his 12th and final strikeout keeping Auburn ahead by two runs.
In for the eighth inning, Lipscomb ran into some trouble of his own. Following a one-out bunt single, Cole Bedford’s two-out single brought freshman sensation Braden Shewmake to the plate with a chance to get the Aggies right back in the game. Working the count full, Shewmake’s ground ball to Robert ended the inning with Auburn needing just three outs to get the win.
Leading off the ninth inning, Texas A&M’s Joel Davis greeted Lipscomb with a solo homer to cut Auburn’s lead down to just one. Going to Mitchell to finish it off, the Tigers got three quick outs to finish off the road win and set things up to try to win the series on Saturday.
Auburn will send junior Keegan Thompson (4-0, 0.70 ERA) to the mound on Saturday against Texas A&M’s Corbin Martin (3-2, 3.90). The first pitch is scheduled for 3 p.m.
“Keegan goes for us and once it gets past him we’ll see where we’re at,” the coach said. “Again, now that you get one you’re starting to talk about the opportunity. You don’t keep it from the guys, now you have an opportunity to win the series on the road and keep up a streak we’ve had all year.
“We need to come out hungry,” he added. “We did the deal with the seconds, you get 86,400 every day. That will reload tomorrow and hopefully we’ll make tomorrow count as well.”