Gators edge Auburn, 3-1

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Florida Gators infielder Jonathan India dives for first as Auburn Tigers infielder Brendan Venter reaches to catch the ball during the Gators home game against Auburn. [Lauren Bacho/Gainesville Sun]

A battle between two of the top pitching prospects in college baseball — Florida ace Brady Singer and Auburn’s Casey Mize — was resolved Thursday night by a crack of the bat in the first inning.

Jonathan India’s two-run blast to left, his 14th home run of the season and just the sixth home run Mize has allowed this season, gave the Gators an early lead that they wouldn’t relinquish as No. 1-ranked UF claimed a 3-1 victory in the first of three games against Auburn (30-13, 9-10 SEC) at McKethan Stadium.

“Often times, you have two pitchers rated this high to go in the draft, sometimes it doesn’t quite work out like that, and maybe they try and do too much. But it ended up being exactly as we thought it would be: a really well-pitched game,” UF coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “It was really fun to be a part of it.”

From the opening pitch, Singer, the junior right-hander, was phenomenal. With 61 MLB scouts in attendance, Singer (9-1) allowed just four hits across seven innings while striking out eight Tigers. Meanwhile, Florida’s bats did just enough to keep the Gators (35-9, 15-4 SEC) in front of their conference foe.

Following India’s first-inning deep shot, Florida would add one more run in the fourth inning when Brady Smith’s RBI single through the left side brought India across home plate once again.

“I got my pitch, and good things happened,” Smith said. “(Mize) is a good pitcher, and he threw well tonight. You know, me as a freshman, that felt really good.”

Florida wouldn’t strike again for the rest of the night, however, leaving the defense to solidify the outcome. After Singer exited after the seventh inning, O’Sullivan went to the bullpen and called upon freshman Jordan Butler to get Florida to the ninth inning. Butler retired each batter he faced before Michael Byrne (11th save) came in to close the game in the ninth, keeping UF’s lead atop the conference firmly intact.

And despite the early scoring from Florida, the battle between two top MLB pitching prospects lived up to the billing, as Mize (8-2) gave up just three hits while striking out 10 Gators across seven innings.

“They’re both potential No. 1 picks,” India said of Singer and Mize. “Brady’s got the sinker at 95 (mph) and Mize has got a splitter at 90, 91. They’re both unbelievable pitchers, and tonight it was a pitching duel. And it was the best one I’ve seen so far”

Florida and Auburn return to McKethan Stadium at 6:30 p.m. Friday, with Jackson Kowar set to start on the mound for UF. The two programs will close the series Saturday at 2 p.m.

“Let’s face it: you have certain chances and opportunities to showcase what you can do against one of the premier arms in the country, and he had some really good at-bats tonight,” O’Sullivan said of India. “I thought his approach was really good and I thought he laid off some really tough pitches.”

 

 

7 COMMENTS

  1. It’s great listening to all the announcers on TV talk about how great this UF team is, after reading the comments on here earlier this week about how “a number 1 team doesn’t lose to Mercer or CFU”. Go Gators!! In Sully we trust.

    • Indeed. I recall one comment wondering what the Gators were going to do against Casey Mize if they couldn’t hit Mercer’s Broom. The better question would’ve been “What are the Auburn hitters going to do against Brady Singer?”.

      My only concerns would be getting Tyler Dyson back on track and seeing the freshman pitchers continue to develop, but I’m sure Sully has that under control.

  2. Honestly, the biggest move in this game came when Jordan Butler came in threw a 3 up, 3 down inning against Auburn’s 2-3-4 hitters. Singer and Mize were supposed to pitch like top 10 prospects, about to sign mutli-million dollar bonuses, and they did. India was supposed to hit like a top 10-15 prospect and he did. Byrne was supposed to close out the 9th inning easily and he did. But Butler was renting a tux for his prom 12 months ago. It’s not like Butler came in to patch the 6-7-8 hitters to get to Byrne. Auburn had their best possible lineup and our freshman was composed and just mowed through them. Add that to a freshman getting a huge insurance run RBI single and great effort.