The Tigers were represented among the 61 big-league scouts who made their way to Gainesville, Fla., on Thursday night for a marquee pitching matchup that might’ve had steep ramifications for the 2018 Major League Baseball Draft.
All 30 teams were present at McKethan Stadium for the battle of aces between Auburn’s Casey Mize and top-ranked Florida’s Brady Singer.
Mize, the right-hander believed to be the favorite to be drafted No. 1 overall by the Tigers in June’s draft, was exceptional in the SEC duel, striking out 10 in seven innings. He allowed three runs on four hits.
But Singer, the right-hander who’s pegged to also go in the top 10, got the last laugh, as the winning pitcher in the Gators’ 3-1 triumph. Singer struck out eight in seven innings, allowing one earned run on four hits.
“Oftentimes you have two pitchers rated this highly, sometimes it doesn’t work out like that, maybe they try to do too much,” Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan said after the game. “It ended up being exactly what we thought it would be, a well-pitched game, both guys kept their emotions in check and both guys did what they were supposed to do. It was really fun to be a part of it.
“We’ve had a lot of matchups over the years with one of our guys going against another high draft from another team, but it’s really hard to remember something like this. This was a little bit different. It had a different feel to it.”
The crowd of 3,391 was buzzing from the first pitch.
Mize, a 6-foot-3, 220-pound junior who can dial it up to 95 and has a lethal split-finger, had a tough start, allowing a two-run home run in the first inning by Florida slugger Jonathan India. He allowed two singles the rest of the way, his ERA ending up at 2.40 through 11 starts — with 104 strikeouts through 75 innings.
Singer, a 6-5, 180-pound right-hander with an impressive sinker, allowed four singles. His ERA is 2.63 through 11 starts, with 81 strikeouts in 72 innings.
Here’s what O’Sullivan said about:
■Singer: “It’s not easy being a high draft as a junior, there’s so many expectations. To be able to go out there every Friday night — and in this case Thursday night — and be as consistent as he’s been, I think speaks volumes of his maturity and where he’s at mentally. He’s not getting caught up in the draft, he’s pitching for his team, he’s staying within himself, he’s not trying to do too much and you’re seeing the result of that.”
■Mize: “That little cutter he throws at 88-91 is a really good pitch and he can throw it to both righties and lefties. I’m not quite sure if it was by design, but he front-doored that thing a couple times to right-handers. I remember he threw one to J.J. (Schwarz) front door on the inner half that you just don’t see at this level very often.”
Most mock drafts have the Tigers selecting Mize No. 1, while Singer has slipped in recent weeks after some early season struggles. PerfectGame.org currently has Singer, who many see as a reliever in the professional ranks, slotted as the No. 11 pick by the Baltimore Orioles.
In Lynn Henning’s most-recent top 10 draft watch, Mize is No. 1 and Singer No. 5.
But for one night, Singer was No. 1.
“It was awesome,” Singer told reporters after the Thursday game. “I think we both came out with an edge, we both knew it was a big game. I don’t think either one of us let it get to us, we came out doing our job.”
“It was unbelievable to come out and compete with him.”
The Tigers have the No. 1 draft pick for the second time ever. They selected right-handed reliever Matt Anderson out of Rice in 1997.
This year's MLB Draft will start June 4 and run through June 6.