May 2, 2014
By Phillip Marshall
AUBURN, Ala. – Seven Auburn baserunners moved into scoring position, five of them with one out, Friday night at Plainsman Park. None of them scored, and Mississippi State won 3-0 in the first game of a crucial Southeastern Conference series.
The loss dropped Auburn’s record to 25-21 overall and 9-13 in the Southeastern Conference. No. 23 Mississippi State improved to 29-18 and 12-10. The second game of the series is set for tonight 6.
Auburn coach Sunny Golloway used the same batting order he used in Auburn’s 7-2 victory in the deciding game at Arkansas last Saturday. That meant having Jordan Ebert, the team’s leading hitter, batting eighth and Ryan Tella, third on the team in hitting, batting seventh. Freshman designated hitter Daniel Robert batted in the leadoff position.
But Mississippi State pitchers Trevor Fitts, Jacob Lindgren and Jonathan Holder were in command most of the night, holding the Tigers to five hits and striking out nine.
“It comes back to timely hitting,” Golloway said. “They are going to pitch a little bit different when you have men in scoring position, and they did. They spun it a little better. They went mainly fastball until they got men in scoring position and then they’d spin it and spin it pretty well.”
Auburn hitters were 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position.
Mississippi State got all the runs it would need on solo home runs by C.T. Bradford and Cody Brown off Auburn starter Dillon Ortman. Mississippi State had hit just nine home runs entering the game. Ortman had not given up a home run all season.
Ortman pitched 7 1/3 innings, giving up six hits and all three runs. Justin Camp pitched 2/3 of an inning, giving up one hit, and Daniel Koger faced one batter. With the bases loaded in the top of the ninth, Reid Carter entered the game and did not let the Bulldogs score.
“He did a really good job.” Golloway said. “He gave us a chance. We got a little momentum in our dugout.”
Ortman, who had won three straight decisions, took the loss and fell to 8-3.
Keegan Thompson reached base on a strikeout and error on the catcher and Anfernee Grier walked. Pinch hitter Sam Gillikin hit a scorching line drive but second baseman Brett Pirtle leaped high to snare it. Ebert hit a hard grounder right at Pirtle, who started a game-ending double play.
“We get a guy on and get another guy on,” Golloway said. “Sam Gillikin’s at-bat was terrific. If they don’t catch that, you don’t know what is going to happen. He gave us a chance when it didn’t look like we were going to have much of a chance.”
Mississippi State first baseman Alex Detz and shortstop Seth Heck also made highlight-reel catches on line drives.
After Fitts gave up five hits in 5 1/3 innings, left-hander Jacob Lindgren took over on the mound and dominated Auburn’s hitters. He pitched 2 2/3 hitless innings, striking out six. Closer Jonathan Holder replaced Lindgren in the ninth and got his sixth save.
“You have to tip your cap to them,” Golloway said. “Lindgren really pitched well. That’s one of the best arms I’ve seen in this league so far. He’s just wild enough to be effective. Our guys were even telling me that was pretty tough to see. I thought he pitched it really well to stabilize it for them.”
In the fourth inning, Blake Austin was the 14th Auburn baserunner to be thrown out at home this season. With Grier running from first, catcher Gavin Collins faked a throw down. Austin broke for home and was tagged out.
“He said he just extended too far,” Austin said. “That cost us, clearly. We gave up another out on the bases. That’s kind of been our MO this year.”
Austin and Grier had doubles for Auburn. Robert, Ebert and Brett Binning had singles. Mississippi State finished with seven hits, including three by Bradford.
Phillip Marshall is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow Marshall on Twitter: