AUBURN – Freshman Dillon Ortman lived a childhood dream on a long day of baseball Saturday at Plainsman Park.
Dillon Ortman, left, celebrates with fellow pitcher Andrew Morris/Photo by Todd Van Emst
A year ago, Ortman, a lifelong Auburn fan, was finishing up a stellar career as a pitcher at Huntsville’s Grissom High School. Saturday, he went where few Auburn pitchers have ever gone.
Ortman got a win and a save as Auburn stormed into a tie first place in the Southeastern Conference West with a double header sweep of Alabama. Ortman got the save as Auburn completed with an 8-7 victory. He got the win in a come-from-behind 7-5 victory in the opener.
The Tigers moved to 28-23 overall and 13-13 in the SEC and will go for the series sweep Sunday at 1 p.m. They share first place with Arkansas (34-16, 13-13). Alabama fell to 30-22 and 12-14.
“Alabama is a little more special to me,” Ortman said. “It was a lot of fun coming out there and doing what I can do.”
Ortman never expected what he could do would be get a win and a save over Alabama on the same day.
“It means a lot,” Ortman said. “That’s kind of extraordinary to me. It was a lot of fun.”
Auburn rallied late, then held off Alabama in both games.
In the opener, the tigers trailed 2-1, scored four times in the seventh to take a 5-2 lead, saw Alabama tie it in the top of the eighth and then scored two in the bottom of the eighth. Ortman gave up three hits and a run in two innings of work to get the win in relief of starter Jon Luke Jacobs.
In the nightcap, the Tigers took a 3-0 lead in the first inning, but Alabama scored two in the fifth and two in the top of the seventh. But the seventh proved to be big again for the Tigers. They scored five runs to go up 8-4. But Alabama got two more in the eighth and one in the top of the ninth.
With two on and one out, Ortman turned a nifty double play on a smash back to the mound to end the game and earn his fourth save. The fourth Auburn pitcher, he gave up one hit in an inning of work.
Auburn jumped on Alabama left-hander Adam Morgan for three runs in the first inning. Justin Fradejas led off with a double and scored on Casey McElroy’s single. Tony Caldwell walked and Wes Gilmer lined an 0-2 pitch down the left field line for a two-run double.
But Morgan took charge after that and gave up just one more hit through six innings. Charley Sullivan took over to start the seventh and walked two batters on eight pitches. The rally was on. Gilmer had another run-scoring double as the Tigers scored five runs on four hits.
“He wants to be out there,” Pawlowski said. “He certainly picked us up today. “It says a lot about his makeup. It takes a different type pitcher to be out there in those situations. He enjoys being in tough spots.”
Fradejas had three hits and Gilmer two to lead the Tigers offensively. Wallen got the win to improve to 5-5.
In the first game, Alabama took a 2-0 lead in the second inning. Casey McElroy got the green light on a 3-0 count and drove a home run over the centerfield fence to make it 2-1 in the third. There it stayed until the Tigers scored four runs on four hits in the seventh.
After Alabama tied it in the eighth, the Tigers scored two runs on Tony Caldwell’s bouncer to third and Ortman finished it up to get the win.
Jacobs, in his third consecutive strong outing, went seven innings, giving up seven hits and four runs. He left the game with the Tigers leading 5-3.
It was Senior Day. Eight Auburn seniors were honored before the first game. Gilmer, who started against Alabama for the first time, said it was a special day.
“I enjoyed every minute of that,” Gilmer said. “It was fun. The pitchers came out and gave us a chance to win. We got some big hits when we needed them. Being my senior year and Senior Day and stuff, it was a blast.”
Pawlowski said he was most proud of his team’s approach to the games.
“It was the way they competed,” Pawlowski said. “I thought that was one of the most important things we did today. We competed for 18 innings. The first game we were behind 2-0. (The second) game we end up going down. We came back. There were a lot of positive things in 18 innings today for the Tigers.”