Striking out three and walking just one batter while throwing 116 pitches, Ortman got the win to improve to 4-1 on the season. Lowering his ERA to just 1.45 in the process, he put the team on his back to open conference play and that's exactly what Coach Sunny Golloway was hoping to see out of a guy that has turned into the bulldog of the rotation.
I thought Dillon Ortman was pretty special tonight," Golloway said. "He had command of all his pitches. I think that's the benefit right now of Coach (Scott) Foxhall and I working together and being able to call pitches. He lost control of his slider at one point on one hitter, but that's really the only time I can remember when we lost control of a particular pitcher. I saw mental toughness when he got his loss. That's really what showed me that he could be a Friday night guy."
At the plate it was all about Ebert and Tomscha as the duo continue to swing hot bats for the Tigers. While Tomscha has provided the power over the winning streak with a .450 average, quietly Ebert has put together a strong start to the month of March himself. Hitting just .200 on March 1, Ebert three hits on Friday night has his average at a robust .365 at the moment. A key reason why Auburn has now won six games in a row, he said this team is gaining confidence with every win and that showed on Friday night.
"You saw it with the football team, they have a lot of close games to some below average to pretty good teams," Ebert said. "As soon as they realized they were good, even the 2010 team, as soon as they realized they were good enough to do it, I think that's when it all changed.
"I think that's what this team is finally starting to do is we're realizing we're pretty good," he added. "We didn't play our best baseball early in the year. We had some hiccups here and there trying to figure out the lineup and who's going to pitch. We're going to ride this wave as long as we can and just try to keep this momentum in our favor."
Auburn wasted little time getting the offense warmed up on as the Tigers struck for a pair of runs in the first inning to get the SEC season off to a good start. Leading things off, Ebert singled and moved to second one out later on a single by Tomscha. A walk to Ryan Tella then loaded the bases with one out for the Tigers to bring Blake Austin to the plate. Doing his job, the senior catcher lifted a fly ball to left field that easily scored Ebert for the 1-0 lead. In the designated hitter role, freshman Daniel Robert went after the first pitch, but checked his swing at the last second. It proved to be a good move for the Tigers as his flare into left field fell in for a single to drive home Tomscha.
Jordan Ebert slides in for Auburn's first run of the game
The Tigers went back to work in the second inning against Mengden as Damon Haecker was hit by a pitch with one out to bring Ebert up. Continuing his roll at the plate, the sophomore stroked a single to left field to set the table for the heart of the Auburn order. Slicing a single through the right side, Dan Glevenyak loaded the bases to bring Tomscha back up. Hitting what appeared to be a double play ball to the Texas A&M shortstop, Tomscha instead reached first on an error that allowed Haecker to score from third and leave the bases still loaded. With a chance to break the game open, Auburn instead left them loaded as Tella struck out and Austin was robbed of a hit by Logan Taylor at short to end the inning.
Leaving runners on base in both the third and fourth innings, Auburn was bailed out by the pitching of Ortman. Allowing a two-out hit in the first, the senior sat down 13 consecutive Texas A&M batters before allowing a leadoff single to Nick Banks to start the sixth inning. He would steal second to move into scoring position, but Ortman recovered to get a pair of groundouts to end the inning and keep the 3-0 lead.
Damek Tomscha races around third to score a run for the Tigers.
Ortman would run into trouble in the eighth inning and things started with a defensive mistake. Leading off, Taylor hit a ground ball to Haecker at short but his throw pulled Keegan Thompson off the bag at first for an error. Ortman recovered to get the next two hitters before an infield single kept the inning alive. Facing Blake Allemand with a runner in scoring position, Ortman struck him out to end the threat.
In the ninth Ortman gave up a single to start the inning and hit the second batter. Determined to finish things off, he got a ground ball to force a runner at second and leave runners on the corners with one out for catcher Troy Stein. Fielding a ground ball in the hole at short, Haecker threw to Glevenyak at the bag at second and his turn and throw to first completed the double play to give Ortman the shutout win.
"I felt great," Ortman said. "To open the SEC like this, Texas A&M is a great ballclub. We played great defense behind. I can't say enough about it.
"It was huge," he added of finishing it off in the ninth. "Coach Golloway said ‘finish it and go out there and do it'. I had been kind of flirting with a complete game a little bit. To get this one under my belt feels great."
Because of the threat of severe weather on Sunday, Auburn and Texas A&M will play a doubleheader on Saturday beginning at noon with 30 minutes between the games.