What Went Wrong With Auburn Baseball Season?
Senior Dillon Ortman made two starts in Auburn’s season ending series against LSU. (photo:Anthony Hall,AUmedia)
Normally I love this time of year. Sandwiched between spring football and summer workouts are the SEC and NCAA Baseball Tournaments. Like most Auburn people, I’m a big football fan. However, I also enjoy SEC baseball … in particular Auburn Baseball.
I suppose one of the reasons for that is baseball is a game I can watch and pull for my team without the intense emotion and tightness in my stomach that I often have at football games. The fact the game is more relaxing is probably one of the reasons it has been dubbed “America’s pastime.”
Today is the start of the SEC Tournament in Hoover, Alabama. Like every year, I will be following the action, but unlike most years I will not be making the trip to Hoover. Why? Because the trouble and expense of a trip is not as enticing when my team didn’t make the field.
I’ll get over it, but it’s sad for nine seniors who’s Auburn careers ended Saturday: Blake Austin, Reid Carter, Terrance Dedrick, Dan Glevenyak, Michael O’Neal, Dillon Ortman, Ryan Tella, Damek Tomscha and Jay Wade all deserve better.
Despite a rocky up and down season, the Tigers entered last weekend’s LSU series potentially needing just one game to crack that number 12 spot in the brackets. Yet a team that started off with visions of going to the College World Series was swept by the Bayou Bengals. What was the most embarrassing part of it was that in those three games, the Orange and Blue was outscored 29-4.
After a season that started off with such high promises, everyone was left with questions. The players, the fans, and I’m sure the coaches wondered what went wrong? I know I did. How could an Auburn Team that finished 33-28 last season and qualified for Hoover, not finish above 500 this year?
I know that Auburn pitching was hampered by an injury to Keegan Thompson, causing Dillon Ortman to start Thursday’s game against LSU on four days rest and then having to come back and pitch again Saturday. And we could point to other reasons but the fact is it shouldn’t have come down to the last series of the year to begin with. There was just something puzzling about the whole season.
I don’t know what it was and I don’t presume to have the answers but I would hope that …
Head Coach Sunny Golloway has them; and I hope he can fix whatever is wrong in his second season.
Don’t get me wrong, writting words like this is difficult for an unmitigated homer like myself. I don’t ever want to appear negative in my articles. Nevertheless I can’t turn my head to reality either.
And the reality is that when Coach Golloway arrived on The Plains he said he had inherited a team with talented upper classmen, several of whom should have already been drafted. In addition, he expected his new recruits to challenge for the league’s Freshman of the Year honors.“This is going to be a great situation,” Golloway said. “There are some outstanding athletes (here).”
From the start, he declared that his bunch had the talent to get to the College World Series, plastering it on the walls and placing it on the back of practice jerseys. Even after the dismissal of three veteran players early in the season, he said, ” We are going to Omaha this year. There is no doubt in my mind.”
Then came four straight SEC series losses including being swept by Ole Miss. What was particularly troubling about the slide was the skipper’s assertion, that there were more problems with the team he inherited than he had originally realized. Yet he still doggedly held on to his mantra that the Tigers were going to Omaha.
Now that his team has failed to finish above 500, there won’t even be a 100 mile trip to Hoover let alone a 900 mile trip to the big dance.
I can’t help but wonder if he had taken the “one game at a time” approach of Gus Malzahn and Clint Meyers would things be different. Could the boy’s expectations have been so built up that when things didn’t go right they became discouraged about reaching that big goal and it affected the team psyche?
I don’t know. However, now that there will be no Omaha trip, Coach ‘G’ says his first season (10-20 SEC) has laid the foundation for a brighter future for Auburn Baseball. As an Auburn fan, I have to hope he’s right. I have to hope he will get it done. In fact, I have to believe he will get it done. His past record says he will get it done and … when he does, I will be one of the first to say well done coach, well done.
But for now it’s painful for all of us to be watching the SEC Tournament from home, especially painful for our senior ball players.
They deserved better.