Tigers squeak out series opener

AUBURN, Ala. – Junior left-hander Clay Dirks delivered his second consecutive solid outing Friday night and reliever Chase Dardar earned his fourth save of the season as LSU edged Auburn, 4-3, at Plainsman Park.

LSU improved to 30-17 overall, 9-13 in the SEC while Auburn dropped to 22-26 and 9-13. The teams are tied for ninth place in the overall league standings.

"Dirks gave us another good outing tonight," said LSU coach Smoke Laval. "That's what we had to have from him, an outing where he competes hard with every pitch and gives us a chance to win. He did that, and we scored some runs early and held on."

LSU struck for three runs in the third inning Friday against Auburn starter Brett Butts (3-6). Third baseman Will Harris led off the inning with his sixth homer of the season before catcher Matt Liuzaa delivered a sacrifice fly and designated hitter Steven Waguespack contributed an RBI single.

LSU extended the lead to 4-0 in the fourth when center fielder Jarred Bogany led off with a single and later scored from third base on wild pitch by reliever Paul Burnside.

However, Burnside and Andy Masten limited LSU to just two hits in five shutout innings the rest of the way as Auburn climbed back within striking distance.

Dirks (4-4) pitched four shutout innings before allowing a run in the fifth on left fielder Luke Greinke's RBI single. Dirks retired Auburn in order in the sixth before running into some difficulty in the seventh.

Shortstop Justin Bristow led off the Auburn seventh with a single and LSU shortstop Michael Hollander misplayed Philip Stringer's ground ball. After Bruce Edwards sacrificed the runners to second and third base, Dirks was lifted for reliever Edgar Ramirez.

Centerfielder Tyler Johnstone grounded to Hollander to score Bristow, but Ramirez retired Greinke on another grounder to short to end the threat.

Catcher Josh Donaldson launched a one-out solo homer off of Ramirez in the eighth to cut LSU's lead to 4-3.

Ramirez then struck out first baseman Andy Bennett, but Russell Dixon walked and Bristow singled, forcing Laval to bring in right-hander Chase Dardar from the bullpen. Dardar induced a fly ball to center from pinch hitter Ben Jones to end the inning and preserve LSU's 4-3 advantage.

Dardar retired the first two Auburn hitters in the bottom of the ninth, but Greinke was hit by a pitch and DH Mike Bianucci singled to keep the inning alive.

Dardar, however, forced Donaldson to ground out to second base to end the game and earn his fourth save. Dardar worked the final 1.1 innings, allowing just one hit.

Dirks picked up his first SEC win of the year, as he allowed two runs – one earned – on six hits in 6.1 innings with one walk and six strikeouts.

Butts was charged with the loss as he surrendered three runs on five hits in 2.2 innings with three walks and two strikeouts.

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