Auburn, Ala.--Auburn junior Cole Lipscomb has been searching all season for the magic that he had a year ago and on Friday night it showed up as he allowed just five hits in a complete game 5-2 victory over the #22 Kentucky Wildcats. Center fielder Anfernee Grier provided much of the offense, going 3-4 and driving in four of Auburn’s five runs in the victory, as the Tigers improve to 19-23 overall and 6-13 in SEC play with the win.
Entering the game with a 1-3 record and an ERA of 5.94, this season has been a tough one for Lipscomb but all that went by the wayside for one night as he worked a strong changeup to go along with his fastball and breaking ball to keep Kentucky off balance all night long. Retiring 23 of the final 25 batters, Lipscomb needed just 27 pitches in the final four innings to finish off his most impressive outing of the season.
“Man, it felt great,” Lipscomb said. “I’ve had some ups and downs this season and I finally felt like all my pitches were there tonight. My defense played great, we had some timely hitting. It’s exciting for it to finally click for me.”
For the team it was an important game as the Tigers fought through some early trouble to get the win. Coach Butch Thompson said it’s no coincidence the score was 5-2, the same lead Auburn held on Sunday at Ole Miss before blowing the lead and falling to the Rebels.
“Since last week, I want them a little more reckless and playing with a little more life,” Thompson said. “That was a big moment when Anfernee hit the home run. That’s one thing for your best player to step up on a Friday night. That one moment (the double play on the bases) didn’t turn into something else. That was a big moment in the ball game. I don’t think there is any coincidence at whatsoever that the score was 5-2 just like it was heading into the last inning last Sunday.”
In the first it was Grier that got the Tigers started as he singled on the second pitch from Kentucky starter Zack Brown. Moving to second on a bunt by Melvin Gray, Grier scored on a two-out double by Niko Buentello to put Auburn in front 1-0.
Anfernee Grier had a big night for the Tigers
It didn’t take long for the Wildcats to answer back in the second inning however as a Damon Haecker error on leadoff man JaVon Shelby gave Kentucky some life. A single then put runners on first and third before a stolen base left Lipscomb in a jam. Giving up a run on a groundout, Lipscomb wouldn’t allow anything else as a shallow fly ball and a groundout left the game tied at one.
That’s how things would remain until the bottom of the fourth inning when Auburn would jump in front by three. It looked like the makings of a monster inning for the Tigers when Jackson Burgreen and Haecker both singled to start things off, but Brown faked to third to catcher Haecker leaning at first. Retiring Haecker in a rundown, Kentucky would make it two when Burgreen was thrown out at the plate.
Auburn didn’t let that stop them however as Kyler Deese and Cody Nulph both singled to make it four straight hits for the Tigers and bring Grier to the plate. Getting a pitch he could turn on, Grier deposited it over the monster in left field for a three-run shot. That gave Lipscomb a 4-1 lead to work with and the junior would make it stand up.
“I can’t imagine a home run bigger than that because of the way the inning was going, first and third with no outs and then they turn that double-play and kind of just deflated us, still a tie ballgame,” Lipscomb said. “And for Anfernee to come up there with two outs and do that was just, it was huge for our team and gave us the momentum we needed to take care of business tonight.”
For Grier it was the biggest part of a huge night and couldn’t have come at a better time.
“It was a crazy inning,” Grier said. “Crazy stuff happened. You just have to go up there and have a good at-bat and put a good swing on the ball and it carried out for us. Three runs on the play, that was big for us.
Allowing a single run in the fifth, Lipscomb would get some insurance in the bottom of the sixth on a Grier single and that’s all he would need as he cruised to the complete game win.
Auburn will go for its second SEC series win of the year on Saturday when the Tigers send senior Justin Camp to the mound against the Wildcats. The first pitch is scheduled for 6 p.m. at Plainsman Park.