It was the kind of collapse that can stick with a team, no matter what the sport.
Senior Editor Phillip Marshall
For any college athlete in any team sport, every game, every competition is precious. There is little worse than giving away a victory to a team that wasn’t good enough to take that victory itself. And that’s what happened to Auburn’s baseball team Sunday.
Poised to sweep their weekend series with Georgia, the Tigers simply handed Sunday’s game to Georgia as sure as if they’d chosen not to show up. Three Auburn pitchers walked five batters and hit one in the ninth inning alone. The result was that an 11-5 lead turned into a 14-11 loss that left players and coaches stunned.
Taken as a whole, the weekend was not a bad one. The Tigers got a terrific pitching performance from Jon Luke Jacobs on Friday and a dominant one from Derek Varnadore on Saturday. They won two out of three, which third-year coach John Pawlowski would have certainly taken going into the series.
But they had a chance to do so much more, to put themselves in commanding position in the West. Instead, they have to try to shake off a monumental pitching collapse.
Who knows why things like that happen? Obviously, Dillon Ortman, Ethan Wallen and Sean Ray wanted to throw strikes and go celebrate a victory. You can’t blame Pawlowski. He used the same late-game pitchers he’s used for most of the season.
It just happened.
And now the Tigers have a fight on their hands. Alabama and Arkansas are tied for first in the West. Auburn, Ole Miss and Mississippi State are a game behind. The Tigers play Alabama at Plainsman Park and should be favored to win two of three. They close the regular season at woeful Tennessee.
But will they be scarred for the rest of the season by what happened Sunday? We’ll get our first indication Tuesday night at Samford. They play overmatched Alabama State on Wednesday. Then they’ll turn their attention to the biggest Auburn-Alabama series in a long time.
The Tigers are still in position to finish strong, make the SEC Tournament and play in an NCAA regional. But nine teams are competing for eight spots. Nothing is guaranteed, especially not after Sunday’s Mother’s Day meltdown.
I don’t know which I find more amusing, the continuing notion that Auburn is pursuing former North Carolina State quarterback Russell Wilson or the notion that the NCAA is suddenly going to demand a full-blown playoff because a letter from the justice department inquired about it.
Wilson is not coming to Auburn. End of story.
And there isn’t going to be a full-blown major college football tournament anytime soon if ever.
So many misunderstand the role of the NCAA. There is no NCAA official who has any power to impose a football playoff on the major schools. NCAA president Mark Emmert can’t tell the BCS to do anything. Plus, he is no doubt acutely aware that the schools that make up the BCS could, if they felt mistreated, decide at any time to leave the NCAA and go it on their own. …
Thanks to all who posted such kind words about my son’s wedding on Saturday. It was a wonderful weekend for the Marshall family. …
I keep reading that Auburn has quarterback problems, and I keep getting confused. Did some people sneak into practice in the spring? Is there some reason why Auburn playing a new quarterback is any more difficult than anyone else playing a new quarterback? Just wondering. …
Trevor Lacey, the mega-star basketball guard from Butler High School, is expected to announce his decision on May 18. That’s a week from Tuesday. I continue to hear that Auburn is very much in the running. …
Until next time …