Getting a leadoff walk from Garrett Cooper, Auburn sent Ryan Tella to the plate to bunt him to second and the junior center fielder executed it to perfection to give the Tigers a chance at the win. Following an intentional walk to Patrick Savage to set up the double play, third baseman Damek Tomscha popped up to the catcher to bring Ortman to the plate.
Sent in as a replacement for Blake Austin after he was taken out for a pinch runner in the eighth inning, Ortman delivered in the biggest of situations for the Tigers with a single through the left side that went through the legs of Southern Miss left fielder Michael Sterling. Cooper cruised to the plate with the game-winning run to secure the victory for Auburn in front of a very good contingent of Auburn fans.
"I was just looking for a pitch I could get something on and hit hard," Ortman says. "I saw a fastball the first pitch and I fouled it off. I knew he would be coming with the slider and he hung one a little bit and I got enough on it to squeeze it through the infield.
"It was pure excitement," he adds. "I was a little worried with Coop on second because I didn't know if he was going to make it all the way around. When it got under his glove I was just pumped."
With the win Auburn improves to 15-6 on the season heading to Baton Rouge this weekend to face LSU, a winner in 13 innings over Northwestern State Wednesday night. Getting strong pitching from starter Trey Cochran-Gill (5 IP, 3 H, O ER) and reliever Conner Kendrick (3 1/3 IP, 1 H, O Runs), Auburn stayed in the game long enough for the offense to make a play and that's what Coach John Pawlowski says was big about the win.
"I'm just really proud of our team because we didn't have anything going," Pawlowski says. "It was a game where we were getting stuffed for much of the game, but we had a lot of energy in the dugout. We started doing all kinds of crazy things in the dugout. We called it the "rally stack" where we took all of our hats and stacked them on top (of Pawlowski's hat). We had some fun with it and found a way to win today."
The win wouldn't have been possible without the local kid Wacker. Trailing 3-0 and without much offense to speak off all night long, Auburn finally got to Southern Miss in the bottom of the eighth inning. Facing ace closer Bradley Roney, Damek Tomscha hit a liner right at Sterling in left field to start the inning. Coming in as a replacement, Sterling dropped the ball for an error and it proved to be huge for Auburn.
Following an Austin fly ball out, Dan Glevenyak was hit by a pitch to put runners on first and second for pinch hitter J.D. Crowe. Working the count, the redshirt freshman earned a walk to load the bases for the Tigers. Local product Jordan Ebert was the first local product to have a chance to be the hero for Auburn, but he struck out to bring Wacker to the plate. Getting a pitch to drive, Wacker didn't miss as he drove a double into the gap. Replacing Crowe at first base as a pinch runner, freshman Sam Gillikin motored all the way around to tie the game at three.
"It brings chills to me," Wacker says. "Just coming out to this stadium growing up and seeing the kids out there on BayBear Mountain, you were that kid when you were five years old. You see them yelling at you like you did at the BayBears left fielder. It's just special to come out here and get a win and come up with a clutch hit like I did.
"The credit goes to the guys that got on base and the pitching staff did a great job tonight," he adds. "It was a team win. We fought all the way through. Kody Ortman had a big knock there in the end. It was a good team win to get some momentum going into Baton Rouge."
Sam Gillikin scores the tying run for the Tigers.
After working out of a bases loaded jam in the second with a strikeout, Cochran-Gill wouldn't be as fortunate in the third inning thanks to some shaky defense from the Tigers. With one out catcher Chase Fowler singled and stole second base to move into scoring position for the Golden Eagles. Up next, Isaac Rodriguez hit a ground ball to Ebert at second base that ate up the freshman.
Smothering the ball on the rough infield, Ebert couldn't make the play for the error. That put runners on first and third with Tim Lynch and the first baseman lifted a fly ball to left field to easily score Fowler and put Southern Miss on the board.
Auburn threatened in the bottom of the third following a Tomscha leadoff walk. Moving to second on a hit-and-run groundout by Austin, Tomscha was stranded to keep the Tigers scoreless. A similar situation happened in the fourth as Ebert was hit on the foot by a pitch. With one out Cooper singled to center field to put a pair of runners on board for Tella, but the junior center fielder hit into an inning-ending double play to squelch the rally.
In the sixth inning Cochran-Gill walked Lynch to lead off the inning to bring Terrance Dedrick into the game for the Tigers. Quickly getting a strikeout, the junior college transfer gave up back-to-back singles to load the bases with just one out for the Golden Eagles. Facing right fielder Connor Barron, Dedrick got a ground ball back to the mound and he threw home for the force for out number two. Finishing off the inning, Dedrick got a strikeout of Andrew Furr to end the threat.
The Tigers once again got the leadoff man aboard in the seventh as Wacker walked. Doing his job, Cooper bunted the senior to second and into scoring position, but it wouldn't matter as a Tella fly ball and a Savage groundout brought the inning to a close.
After dodging bullet after bullet from Southern Miss, Auburn couldn't pull off the feat again in the eighth inning as third baseman Blake Brown doubled to start the inning off Dedrick. It was his second double of the season and just his fourth extra-base hit, and it put the Golden Eagles in business. Following a sacrifice bunt, shortstop Nick Dawson laced a ball into right field that Hunter Kelley dove for but couldn't get. The ball bounced away allowing Dawson to race to third with a triple.
That was all for Dedrick on the mound as Kendrick came in to face Southern Miss leadoff man Dillon Day and immediately uncorked a wild pitch. Dawson trotted home on the mistake from the Tigers to put Southern Miss up 3-0, but Auburn wouldn't go down without a fight as the Tigers pulled out the dramatic victory.
Auburn will face #3 LSU this weekend in Baton Rouge in a three-game series. Game times for the series are 7 p.m. on Friday night, 6:30 p.m. on Saturday and 1 p.m. on Sunday. The Sunday game can be seen on Cox Sports in Louisiana.