Mistake-Prone Auburn Falls 4-3 To Mizzou

Dillon Ortman

Auburn (18-9, 4-3) dropped its SEC baseball series opener to Missouri (12-12, 2-5) by a score of 4-3 Thursday night at Plainsman Park.

Auburn, Ala.--Playing in front of a capacity crowd on Thursday night and on national television, the Auburn Tigers reverted back to early-season form as Coach Sunny Golloway's club committed four errors in the field and had two costly base-running mistakes as well in a 4-3 loss the Missouri.

Entering the series tied for first in the SEC, No. 21 Auburn falls to 18-9 overall and 4-3 in league play with the loss.

"We've got to find a way to make these guys understand that the margin of error between winning and losing in this league is very, very slim," Golloway said. "I've said that from the get-go. I thought that we were at home with the home-field advantage, and I think it ended up working against us, I really do. I don't think our guys played very calm and I don't think we played very poised. I think Missouri played more poised than we did in front of what was a hostile crowd for them."

Much of the problems came on defense as the Tigers committed four errors on the night and could have easily had a fifth. With freshman shortstop making three of those errors and the fourth coming from Ortman, Golloway said it was a night to forget for his team.

"We had a lot of errors," Golloway said. "I haven't seen us have that many miscues defensively. Again, it's got to be about pitching and defense and we didn't do that."

On the mound, senior Dillon Ortman was the hard-luck loser for the Tigers as he allowed two earned runs on nine hits in seven innings to fall to 5-2 on the season. Striking out five but never really getting into a groove, Golloway said Ortman pitched well enough to win had he been given a little support.

"I thought he pitched pretty well," Golloway said. "We easily could be talking about a 3-1 win right here if we just field the ball and don't walk their nine-hole, I think we're able to finish the game off. But we didn't. I thought he pitched well and if the outcome was 3-1 we would be talking about how well he pitched. I thought his outing was fine."

Auburn started the scoring in the first inning as Jordan Ebert led off with a single and moved to second on a Dan Glevenyak groundout. That brought Damek Tomscha to the plate. Auburn's leading hitter, Tomscha ripped a single through the left side to score the speedy Ebert and give Ortman a quick 1-0 lead. It was one of a team-leading three hits on the night for the senior.

It didn't take long for the visiting Tigers to answer back in the top of the second as shortstop Josh Lester singled with one out and third baseman Ryan Howard followed with a single of his own to bring catcher Dylan Kelly to the plate. Hitting .299 for the season entering the game, Kelly singled to score Lester and tie the game at one.

A pitcher's duel broke out after the early offense from both teams, but Auburn looked as if they would take the lead in the fifth following a leadoff single from Ebert. Moving to second on an errant pickoff attempt, Ebert advanced to third in a bunt single from Haecker to put the Tigers in business with Tomscha due up. Trying to be aggressive on the bases, Haecker took off on a ball in the dirt but was thrown out at second. A strikeout to Tomscha followed and Tella couldn't push across Ebert either, ending the potential rally.

"What we tried to do over at first was read the ball in the dirt," Golloway said. "You don't do that with first and third and no outs, that's a base-running mistake. You're trying to do too much. We're going to score a run there unless we get picked off. We end up trying to move on a ball in the dirt that really wasn't that bad. He caught us and we get in a rundown right there and can't risk anything at third base. You just can't make that mistake, but again we're young and we're going to learn from that. I think the whole key with this club is can we learn from our mistakes? That's going to be the key to our success down the road."

In the sixth Auburn finally broke through again as Blake Austin doubled to start things off for the Tigers. With one out Glevenyak walked to bring Keegan Thompson to the plate with runners on first and second. Getting a pitch to handle, the freshman singled through the left side to score Austin and put Auburn back in front. Red-hot Sam Gillikin followed with a single of his own to score Glevenyak and suddenly Auburn was up 3-1.

The lead didn't last long however as the first Haecker error of the night opened the door for Missouri in the top of the seventh with one out. A walk to number nine hitter Jake Ring put Ortman in a tough spot, but he came back to get Anderson on a fly ball for the second out. Hoping to get out of the jam, Ortman instead left a ball over the plate that lefty Logan Pearson ripped to the opposite field for a double. Both runners scored on the play to tie the game at three, a turning point in the game said Golloway.

"You record the two outs and you get the error and the base-on-balls," Golloway said. "Pitching and defense is what is going to win. When we had the lead we didn't pitch and we didn't play defense right there."

Tied at three, Missouri pulled ahead for good in the eighth inning as Ortman allowed a leadoff double to bring Jay Wade out of the bullpen for Auburn. He walked Lester to bring Howard and the Mizzou third baseman put down a sacrifice bunt to put runners on first and second with one out. Going to his closer Terrance Dedrick, Golloway decided to pitch to the left-hander Kelly but the gamble didn't pay off as he lifted a sacrifice fly to center to score Shane Segovia from third.

Trailing 4-3, Auburn couldn't get anything going against Missouri closer Keaton Steele as he earned his sixth save of the season with two scoreless innings to finish things off.

Auburn will send Thompson to the mound trying to even the series on Friday night with the first pitch scheduled for 6 p.m.

Game Two Box Score

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