On a night when his team had a chance to take the upper hand on the road against a ranked opponent, Coach Sunny Golloway said that once again a lack of mental toughness showed up and the program has to keep working to get over that hump.
"We played a good ball game and we were tough," Golloway said. "We've just got to get more mental toughness in our program. That's probably the hardest thing for us in our program is trying to change what we've been to what we want to become. Our young guys, I can't say enough about them. There's not a lot of bad habits in some of these young guys. They are really battling hard."
The young guy that is playing as well as anyone in the league is sophomore Jordan Ebert, and he continued that on Friday night as he finished with four of Auburn's 12 total hits. Senior catcher Blake Austin added three hits on a night when the Tigers just couldn't take advantage of some early Ole Miss mistakes to put the game away.
On the mound Ortman allowed two runs on five hits in seven innings to get a no-decision while reliever Jay Wade allowed six runs on 11 hits in the final five innings to take the loss for the Tigers. Golloway said Ortman battled all night and Wade did the same.
"He deserved to win," Golloway said. "He was at 100 pitches and it was time for him to come out of the game. He was out of gas. We asked him how he felt and he was honest, he was tired. Jay comes in and they got a couple of hits, but they should have just scored one run. We had Terrance Dedrick ready to close it out. We made a lot of big errors in the outfield, more than I have ever seen.
"We've got to work harder and do a better job. It seems like when we get one thing fixed another gets broken. That comes back to mental toughness in our program. Our kids have to understand and mature, and as coaches we have to keep pushing. We've got to work hard everyday to get better, and we will, but we're going to go through growing pains until we understand that."
With Wade on in relief for the Tigers, Ole Miss (23-8, 5-5) got a leadoff single from Anderson to bring Will Allen to the plate. Working the count full, Wade got a fly ball to right with Anderson on the move from first. Sam Gillikin closed on the ball, but it just went under his glove, allowing Allen to get to second for a double. Instead of a possible double play Wade was left to face the heart of the Ole Miss order. Getting ahead 0-2, Wade left a pitch over the plate and Sikes Orvis made him pay with a double to right field to score the first run of the inning and leave runners on second and third. J.B. Woodman followed with a single to but Auburn's lead down to 5-4 and bring Will Jamison to the plate. Getting a fly ball to retire Jamison, Wade finally got an out but Orvis scored from third on the play to tie the game at five. He recovered to get out of the jam, but the damage was done.
In the 11th Auburn got an opportunity to get on the scoreboard as Austin led off with a single. Moving to second on a sacrifice bunt and to third on a groundout, the senior catcher was 90 feet from putting the Tigers in front with Gillikin at the plate. Facing Ole Miss closer Josh Laxer, Gillikin swung and missed at strike three and the ball got away from Allen behind the plate. It looked like Auburn would take the lead on a wild pitch with Austin coming home, but the umpire ruled the ball hit Gillikin after the swing. That made it a dead ball and brought the inning to a close.
With Wade putting up scoreless innings the Tigers ran him back out there in the 13th, but Ole MIss finally put the final nail in the Auburn coffin as Braxton Lee led off with a single to bring Austin Bousfield to the plate. Hitless on the night, he hit a liner to center that Ryan Tella dove for but came up empty. The double put runners on second and third for Anderson, and on the first pitch he hit it over the right field wall for a walk-off win.
Auburn got the scoring started in the first inning with Ebert getting things going with a leadoff double to right field. Back in the lineup after dealing with a strained oblique muscle, Dan Glevenyak's ground ball to third was fielded cleanly but the throw sailed high for the error. That put runners on first and third with no outs for the heart of the Auburn order. With Tella at the plate, Auburn decided to put Glevenyak on the move with two strikes. It proved to be the right call as Tella struck out, but the throw to second went into center field. The second error of the inning allowed Ebert to score and put the Tigers on the scoreboard.
In the second inning Auburn had an opportunity to add to its lead when Damon Haecker reached on a walk with one out. Drawing a throw from Ole Miss starting pitcher Chris Ellis at first, Haecker was able to get to third when the ball got away from Orvis. Now on third with just one out the Tigers tried to squeeze Haecker home, but Keegan Thompson couldn't put the bat on the outside pitch. That make Haecker an easy out at the plate as Ole Miss catcher Will Allen applied the tag to end the threat for Auburn.
With Ortman keeping the Rebels off the board, the Tigers extended the lead in the top of the fifth. Leading off, catcher Austin singled and stole second base to move into scoring position. Struggling with his control, Ellis hit Haecker with a pitch before Auburn got a sacrifice bunt from Thompson to put runners on second and third. Throwing wild again, Ellis hit Gillikin with a pitch to load the bases with one out and the top of the order due up for Auburn.
Red-hot on the season, Ebert just missed extra bases with a shot to right-center but it was deep enough to score Austin for the 2-0 Auburn lead. With a chance to break the game open early, Glevenyak instead hit a fly ball to center to end the inning and leave a pair of runners on base.
Pitching well the first four innings, Ortman ran into trouble in the fifth as he started things off by hitting Orvis with a pitch to give the Rebels some life. Eventually winding up on second with two outs following a stolen base, Orvis scored on a single from Preston Overbey to cut the Auburn lead in half. Keeping the pressure on, Ole Miss got a single from Errol Robinson to put runners on the corners and they made the opportunity count with Lee finishing it off with the third-straight single to tie the game at two.
Now tied, the Tigers went back to work in the sixth inning as Tella reached on an infield single to bring Damek Tomcha to the plate. Trying to bunt the runner over, Tomscha laid one down the third base line and it remained just fair for a single. With runners on first and second, Daniel Robert's sacrifice bunt moved both runners into scoring position for Austin and the senior delivered with a double to make it 4-2 Tigers.
Coming up clutch, Thompson singled through the infield to score Austin and make it a three-run lead for Ortman to work with. That's how things would stay until Ole Miss tied it in the eighth, setting the stage for the late-night drama.
With the threat of inclement weather on Sunday, Auburn and Ole Miss will instead play a Saturday doubleheader to finish the series. Both games will be nine innings with the first scheduled for 3 p.m.