FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – A classic pitcher's duel went senior Dillon Ortman's way as the Auburn Tigers claimed a 2-1 win over Arkansas in the opening game of an SEC weekend baseball series Friday night at Baum Stadium.
The Tigers (24-19, 8-11 SEC) took the series-opener for the fifth time in seven SEC series, getting another outstanding performance from Ortman. Arkansas (27-17, 9-10) out-hit the Tigers, but a pair of errors in the sixth inning allowed Auburn to escape with the victory.
"We've played well on Friday nights," Auburn head coach Sunny Golloway said. "We've won five out of our seven Friday night games in this league. We might have the best record in the league on Friday nights. That hasn't been our problem. Our problem has been the next two games. (Arkansas) Coach (Dave) Van Horn is going to be very aware of that with his guys. All of our games have been close. In our last eight games, we're 4-4 and we've lost four games by one run."
Ortman (8-2) just missed turning in his second-straight complete game performance, pitching 8 1/3 innings and allowing just one earned run on six hits while striking out five.
"Dillon is special because he gives a lot of young guys, a lot of high school guys, a lot of hope," Golloway said. "Everyone he matches up against – potential first, second-round guys throwing 93 or 94 – Dillon's out there 88, 89 but hitting his spots and mixing really well. As long as he can continue to mix and pitch really well, he's kind of the Greg Maddux of the SEC. He's just going to pitch. He doesn't get a lot of love from professional baseball, but we make up for it. He gets a lot of love from us."
Senior Terrance Dedrick fought his way out of a tight spot in the ninth to record the final two outs and pick up his fourth save of the year. He entered the game with a runner on second and one out, then proceeded to walk the next batter then give up a deep fly ball out, moving both runners up 90 feet. An intentional walk to Eric Fisher loaded the bases, but he coaxed a flyout to center from pinch-hitter Clark Eagan to seal the victory.
Trailing 1-0 after five, Auburn's two runs came courtesy of a pair of Arkansas errors in the sixth inning. Jordan Ebert – who had ended the Arkansas fifth by throwing out a runner at home plate - reached on a throwing error to lead off the inning, moved to second on a sacrifice bunt, took third on a groundout and scored on an RBI single by Damon Haecker to tie the game at 1-1. After a walk to Damek Tomscha, Blake Austin would reach on an error on a ground ball up the middle, allowing Haecker to score from second when the Razorback catcher couldn't hold onto a throw from the second baseman, giving Auburn a 2-1 lead.
Arkansas broke through in the fifth inning. Back-to-back singles from Blake Baxendale and Eric Fisher and a sacrifice bunt from Bobby Wernes put runners at second and third with one out. A grounder to short from Jake Wise that turned into a fielder's choice scored pinch-runner Garrett Rucker from third to give the Razorbacks a 1-0 lead. Another base hit threatened to extend the lead, but Ebert's one-hopper from left field nailed Wise trying to score from second and keep the Razorback lead at just one run.
The best scoring chance for either team in the first four innings came in the Auburn third as Daniel Robert and Damon Haecker led off with back-to-back base hits. With Damek Tomscha up, the Tigers tried a hit-and-run, but the Razorbacks pitched out and had Robert by 30 feet at third base. He attempted to retreat to second, but Haecker was already there, and Haecker was out as both runners were tagged on the play. Robert would eventually take third on a wild pitch, but he would be stranded there.
Auburn had just four hits on the night, led by two from Haecker. Robert and Ebert had one apiece.
With severe weather in the forecast for Sunday, Auburn and Arkansas will play a doubleheader Saturday. Game one is scheduled for a 4:05 p.m. start, and the second game will begin 30 minutes following the conclusion of the first. Freshman RHP Keegan Thompson and senior LHP Michael O'Neal are slated to be Auburn's starting pitchers.