By Jeff Shearer
GAINESVILLE, Fla. - Playing in a super regional for the first time since 1999, Auburn struck first but Florida answered quickly, using a big third inning to beat Auburn 8-2 Saturday in the first game of their best-of-three series.
The Tigers (42-22) and Gators (46-18) will meet again Sunday at 11 a.m. CT, with SEC All-Freshman pitcher Tanner Burns hoping to force a winner-take-all game three Monday at 7:30 p.m. CT.
"We're down to nine innings, so we'll come out and try to force something," Auburn coach Butch Thompson said. "Hopefully Tanner Burns gets us a good start, and most likely Cody Greenhill to finish up and give us a chance for nine innings, to get an opportunity to play for one more."
In the third, Julien broke Frank Thomas' school record for RBI by a freshman, knocking in No. 69 with a single to center to score Steven Williams.
Trailing 2-0 in the bottom of the third, Florida scored four runs. Will Dalton's bases-loaded single tied the score. The Gators took the lead on a fielder's choice to first base, with Jonathan India narrowly beating Anthony's throw home.
Keenan Bell put the Gators up 4-2, scoring Dalton with a single to right.
The Gators added two more runs in the fifth, taking advantage of a pair of walks and throwing errors en route to a 6-2 lead.
Florida's Deacon Liput homered to lead off the bottom of the sixth to make it 7-2, Liput's third hit of the game. Nelson Maldonado homered in the eighth to put the Gators on top, 8-2.
Brady Singer earned the win for Florida, striking out nine in 6.2 innings. Casey Mize took the loss, striking out five in five innings while allowing six runs.
"When you get to compete against good teams and good players, that's what it's all about," Mize said. "That's fun to even be here in Super Regionals in this environment, competing against a really good team. I just didn't compete well, but it is pretty cool when you're in that competitive moment."
Mize's outing came five days after the Detroit Tigers selected him with the No. 1 overall pick in the MLB Draft.
"I think I put the draft behind me," said Mize. "I'm just focused on what we're trying to do, trying to go to Omaha. Monday was a great day, but Tuesday I woke up with something else in mind. I flipped a switch and I put in the work to prepare for this. I just didn't execute. I really was focused on what we were doing today, and what we're doing this weekend."
Reliever Davis Daniel pitched the final three innings, striking out four.
"Stay true to yourself," said Anthony, who is hitting .688 (11-for-16) with five extra-base hits and eight RBI in the NCAA Tournament. "Playing our game got us to where we are today. It's key for us to keep within ourselves and execute like we know we can."
Jeff Shearer is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @jeff_shearer