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Tigers Welcome Gators to open SEC Play

Casey Mize has a 0.40 ERA in 4 starts to open SEC play. (Photo: Auburn Athletics/Wade Rackley)

We have officially reached week five of the 2017 college baseball season, meaning that one of the most exciting portions of the season is upon us, the start of conference play.

For Auburn Baseball (14-5), their first draw is the fifth-ranked Florida Gators (13-5) at Plainsman Park.

Florida enters the series winners of two straight, their most recent being against #1 Florida State in mid-week action Tuesday in Gainesville. In the Gators 1-0 win, starter Nate Brown struck out four while allowing three hits. Mark Kolozsvary scored the winning run in the seventh inning when he singled to left field, scoring Nelson Maldonado. Andrew Baker was on the mound in the seventh, earning the win. Baker struck out four in 2.2 innings, not allowing a hit.

To this point, Florida has played exactly half of their games against teams that share the Sunshine State. In nine games, the Gators are 5-4 against teams from Florida, going 4-0 over their main rivals. In addition to beating Florida State Tuesday, Florida swept rival Miami at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville February 24-26, outscoring the Hurricanes 9-2. Jacksonville got the best of Florida on February 21, by scoring three runs in the bottom of the ninth to walk off, 3-2. A week later, the Gators split a midweek series with UCF, winning game one 4-3 and losing game two 11-2. Florida Gulf Coast got the best of the Gators in a home-and-home midweek slate March 7&8, 7-3 and 3-2 respectively. After the Auburn series, Florida will play eight more games against programs from their home state.

The Gators also have series wins over William & Mary, Columbia, and Seton Hall.

Florida’s projected rotation for Auburn has a combined record of 8-0, and have less than a 2.20 ERA. Friday’s starter Alex Faedo has allowed four earned runs in 26.1 innings, striking out 30 and walking seven in four appearances. Brady Singer, Saturday’s starter, has a very similar line to Faedo. Singer has 27 strikeouts in 24 innings pitched. Alex Kowar is slated to start Sunday, his best game this season came against William & Mary on February 19, where he struck out 10 over 5.2 innings.

As a team, Florida is hitting .247. Two players are hitting above .300, Dalton Guthrie and Keenan Bell. Guthrie is batting .328 with a team leading 21 hits. Jonathan India leads Florida with 11 RBI and six doubles.

Auburn has plenty of momentum heading into the SEC opener. Auburn has won four straight games dating back to last weekend’s series with Presbyterian. The Tigers picked up their NCAA-best seventh shutout of the season on Tuesday with a 4-0 win over UAB, and has also turned 12 double-plays over the last eight games.

Auburn’s Friday and Saturday starters have been one of the best one-two punches in the nation this season. Keegan Thompson and Casey Mize have a combined 0.53 ERA, with 53 strikeouts. Thompson’s streak of innings without an earned run to start the season ended Friday at 23.2 innings in Auburn’s 11-8 loss to Presbyterian. He allowed two runs in 7.1 innings, not picking up a decision. Mize leads the team in strikeouts with 38, sitting down ten in two of his four starts. Davis Daniel had a career day Sunday against Presbyterian, striking out eight over six innings.

Auburn faces Florida to open SEC play beginning Friday at 6 PM at Plainsman Park. Saturday’s game is scheduled for 2 PM, Sunday’s first pitch is scheduled for 1 PM.

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