Auburn committed two errors and allowed a handful of mental miscues to blow open a close game in the sixth inning, and the Tigers fell to Kennesaw State, 9-2. Of the 29 runs scored on Auburn this year, 15 have been unearned.
Kennesaw State was playing its second SEC opponent in a week after the Owls beat Georgia last Wednesday, 2-1.
Starters Dillon Ortman and Steve Janas traded easy firsts, before the Tiger offense turned up the pressure in the second. With a Cullen Wacker single, a Garrett Cooper double and a Blake Austin walk, Auburn loaded the bases before Sam Gillikin and Jordan Ebert left all three runners stranded.
Ortman continued perfectly until there was one out in the fourth and he allowed KSU center fielder Bo Way a triple to center before getting the final two outs and leaving Way on third. Before the triple, Auburn pitchers had thrown nearly 11 innings of no-hit baseball.
Auburn again loaded the bases in the fourth, this time off relief pitcher Colton Cross, through Cooper, Austin and Gillikin but another Ebert groundout ended the threat.
The Owl offense finally put together a string of hits in the fifth and tagged Ortman for four straight singles before he was pulled for Chase Williamson. The sophomore immediately tossed a wild pitch, allowing the second run of the inning, before getting the third out. Ortman's final line of 4 2/3 IP, 5 H, 2 ER and 2 K was misleading about both how well he pitched and how out of hand the game was about to become.
The top of the sixth was easily Auburn's worst of the year to date. A quick fly out and, a hit batter and a fielder's choice at second led to two quick outs. Then, a (generously ruled) single to short and a Dan Glevenyak error (his fifth) forced head coach John Pawlowski to remove Williamson, and everything fell apart. Jay Wade came on in relief and gave up three straight hits to bring in five runs before recording the final out.
Once the score ballooned to 7-0, Auburn fought back and loaded the bases in the bottom of the sixth with one out. But all the Tigers could muster was a run off a wild pitch and a sacrifice fly from Patrick Savage to drive in Cooper. Ebert would then single into center, bringing Austin around third, but the catcher was thrown out at home fairly easily by Way.
Kennesaw State got two more runs in the seventh off Trey Wingenter, and they were again unearned, this time because of a botched throw and catch between Ebert and Cooper.
Auburn put men on the corners with one gone in the bottom of the ninth but, the Tigers folded easily with two infield outs to close out the game.
Auburn takes its 6-2 record into another homestand this weekend against Eastern Illinois.