Combine the struggles at the plate and on the mound with two errors and three wild pitches and you have a forgettable day on the diamond for the Tigers. The only bright spot was the hitting of first baseman Garrett Cooper as he finished with three of Auburn's seven hits for the game.
Watching as his team fell apart in the middle third of the game, allowing all nine runs in just three innings, Coach John Pawlowski said missed opportunities early and some bad pitches really hurt his club in the loss.
"I thought Dillon Ortman was throwing the ball very well and I thought there were two situations that really dictated that game," Pawlowski said. "We had to execute a couple of pitches in really big situations when we came in out of the bullpen and we didn't do that. Offensively we had some opportunities to get guys in and score runs and we didn't do that. I was very disappointed in our overall performance. There is a lot of work left to be done.
"Those guys at the top of the order, I think we had six strikeouts at the top of the order," he adds. "I talked to them and told them that we've got to get very competitive. Those guys understand they know that we were not very good today in many, many phases. I'm disappointed obviously so tomorrow we've got some work to do."
Auburn had its chances to break the game open early, but failed to deliver. That would be the theme of the entire game.
In the second inning, Cullen Wacker walked with one out and Cooper followed with a double to put runners on second and third with nobody out. Catcher Blake Austin worked a walk to load the bases, but freshman Sam Gillikin struck out and fellow freshman Jordan Ebert followed with a groundout to end the threat.
The Tigers once again threatened in the fourth as a two-out single by Cooper and an Austin single put a pair of runners on for Gillikin. This time he battled to work a walk and again load the bases for the Tigers, but an Ebert ground ball once again killed the potential rally to keep the game scoreless.
In the fifth Kennesaw State finally broke through to chase Ortman from the game. After not allowing a hit through the first three innings, the junior allowed consecutive singles to Chris McGowan and Anthony Duran to put runners on the corners with one out. Alex Liquori followed with a long single off the wall in left field to score one and put runners on first and second.
Ortman was saved from allowing another run as Ryan Tella cut down Duran at the plate for the second out of the inning following the fourth consecutive hit off the junior. With runners on the corners and two outs Chase Williamson came on to pitch for the Tigers and immediately uncorked a wild pitch to make it 2-0 Kennesaw State.
Things went from bad to worse in the sixth for the Tigers as Williamson hit Peyton Hart with one out to start a big inning for the Owls. Following a fielder's choice that cut down Hart at second, Andy Almonte reached on an infield single to Dan Glevenyak at short to bring McGowan to the plate. Hitting a ground ball just left of the second base bag, he looked like he would end the inning, but Glevenyak dropped the exchange to load the bases with two outs.
Coming on in relief, Jay Wade quickly got ahead 0-2 before grooving a pitch to Duran that he deposited into center field for a single to score two runs. That made it 4-0 Kennesaw State, but they weren't done yet as Kal Simmons doubled to left field to clear the bases for the touchdown lead.
Auburn finally got on the board in the bottom of the sixth as Damek Tomscha walked and moved to second on a one-out single by Cooper, his third hit of the game. Austin was hit by a pitch to load the bases for pinch hitter Patrick Savage. A wild pitch forced home Tomscha before Savage lifted a fly ball to right field to score Cooper to make it 7-2.
Freshman Trey Wingenter came on in relief in the seventh, but didn't fare much better as a Cooper error led to a pair of unearned runs to push the Kennesaw State lead back to seven. The Owls finished things off by allowing just one Auburn hit in the final three innings to secure the win.
Cooper was the only player with more than one hit for the Tigers as Auburn struggled offensively, striking out nine times in the game. On the mound Williamson allowed three unearned runs on one hit in one inning while Wade gave up a pair of earned runs on three hits in just one/third of an inning. Wingenter allowed a pair of unearned runs in his one inning of work while Matt Schultz and Terrance Dedrick each pitched a scoreless inning of relief.
Auburn will get back on the field Friday at 3 p.m. as the Tigers face Eastern Illinois in the first of three games this weekend at Plainsman Park. Game times are scheduled for 3 p.m. on Saturday and 1 p.m. on Sunday.