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Florida 8, Auburn 2: Gators, Brady Singer roar past Tigers, Casey Mize

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Florida faced the No. 1 pick in the 2018 MLB Draft on Saturday. It almost chased him, too.

2017 Division I Men's College World Series - LSU v Florida - Game 1 Photo by Peter Aiken/Getty Images

The first three innings of the anticipated duel between the Florida Gators and Auburn Tigers — and their aces, Brady Singer and Casey Mize — in Gainesville on Saturday went Auburn’s way.

Sloppy fielding, an injury scare for Singer, and a seeing-eye single all helped the Tigers build a 2-0 lead heading to the bottom of the third, and Singer’s pitch count — 72 pitches after three innings — made it seem likely that he would not be long for the day.

But Florida’s bats that answered the call in the bottom of the third inning, and they — and a stellar effort from Singer — ultimately powered the Gators to an 8-2 win that means the College World Series is 27 outs away.

Florida rapped out four singles and drew a walk over the course of the frame, tying the game on Wil Dalton’s two-run single off the wall in right, going ahead on a fielder’s choice gone wrong thanks to Jonathan India hustling home from third on a chopper down the first base line, and taking a two-run lead on a Keenan Bell single through right.

It was just the second inning of more than three runs Mize had given up in his career — and it was just the first stanza of Florida’s bravura performance against the Auburn ace.

The Gators would rack up two more runs in the fifth against Mize by drawing two more walks from a pitcher who had been stupendously with them in 2018, then took advantage of terrible Auburn throwing errors to score two runs in the frame. Mize would buckle down and strike out two Gators with two men on to get out of the fifth, but he’d allowed six runs by then.

And that was more than enough for Singer on this day. After those adventurous first three innings, Singer bore down on the Tigers, retiring 11 of the final 12 batters he faced in order.

The exception? Josh Anthony, who was hit by a pitch in the fourth, then erased on a fielder’s choice that left Will Holland on first — for a stint which lasted mere moments, as Holland ended up making the next out in a pickle after a pick-off.

Singer struck out nine and allowed just four hits over his 6.2 innings of work in his final start at McKethan Stadium, and outdueled Mize (six runs, seven hits in five innings) for the second time this season, following a similarly sharp April outing. Florida closer Michael Byrne worked two scoreless innings in relief of Singer, and Florida got solo homers from Deacon Liput and Nelson Maldonado off Auburn relievers to extend their lead to the final 8-2 margin.

And though Florida’s defense still left a bit to be desired, the lineup and the men of the mound combined to get the Gators past perhaps the most talented pitcher they will see this postseason, and shut down an Auburn offense that had been red-hot in the Raleigh Regional a week ago.

The Tigers need two wins on consecutive days in Gainesville to get to the College World Series from here.

The Gators need just one — and could be ticketed for Omaha, and a final defense of their first national title, by Sunday afternoon.