The win, coupled with losses by both Arkansas and Ole Miss, puts the Tigers into a tie for first place in the Western Division as well with four games remaining. Coach John Pawlowski said that Saturday's win was huge to give the Tigers their first goal, but now they turn towards trying to win a title.
"We've talked all season and in the preseason our number one goal and number one priority was to find a way to get into the SEC Tournament," Pawlowski said. "We did that. I'm proud of these kids. You look at Ryan Jenkins and Michael Hurst and Austin Hubbard, those guys that have been here, I'm really happy for those guys. We can enjoy this, but now we move to our next goal. We want to win the West. We're certainly in the position where you want to be going down the home stretch. That's our number one focus right now, find a way to win the West."
Struggling in a starting role after pitching well the first few weeks of SEC play, Nelson lost his spot in the rotation after recording just one out in a start against Kentucky in late April. All that went out the window on Saturday though as he was dominant from start to finish in the complete game win. He said having a five-run lead to work with after the first inning really settled him down and let him make pitches without pressure.
"I felt really good today," Nelson said. "It was good to let them get me a lead so I could just pretty much go out there and throw and let them hit it. Things worked out. It was a good day. It's a lot of fun (to pitch with a big lead). You can make some mistakes and keep cruising along. You don't have to worry about it too much."
Mummey was far from the only offensive star on this day though as every Auburn starter had at least two hits with Hunter Morris the only one not to score a run. Brian Fletcher added three hits, including a pair of home runs, and three RBI while Ryan Jenkins and Dan Gamache also had three hits as part of a 22-hit attack for the Tigers. Mummey said after the loss on Friday it was important for them to come out swinging on Saturday.
"It was awesome," Mummey said. "Cole, you can't say enough about what he did today on the mound. He went out there and pitched one of the best games I've ever seen. It was great to get that off the mound. We know once we get a good start on the mound our bats are going to click. It was good to get the bats going early and get us ahead."
Trent Mummey now has 11 HR and 33 RBI in 23 games played this season.
Auburn wasted no time in jumping all over the Vols (29-22, 12-14) on a beautiful Saturday at Plainsman Park. Leading things off, right fielder Justin Fradejas ripped a double to right field to bring Mummey to the plate. Getting a pitch to drive, Mummey just cleared the wall in right field for his first homer of the day and a two-run Auburn lead. A Fletcher double put the pressure right back on Tennessee and following a Hunter Morris lineout, Tony Caldwell walked to put a pair of runners on. Following a fly ball out, Jenkins singled just over the head of third baseman Matt Duffy to score Fletcher for a 3-0 lead. Gamache finished off a huge first inning with a double to left field that scored two. Staked to a 5-0 advantage, Nelson set out to make it stand up.
Pitching scoreless innings in the second and third, the big junior gave his offense a chance to put an early end to the game and seal Auburn's trip to Hoover. A bunt single by Caldwell jump started the Tigers again in the third as singles by McElroy and Jenkins followed, for Jenkins it was his second RBI and gave Auburn a 6-0 lead.
Playing the percentages, Gamache bunted to move the runners over but the Vol pitcher threw it away at first base. A run scored on the error and left runners on second and third for Justin Hargett. His pop up was the second out of the inning, but a walk to Fradejas kept the inning alive and brought Mummey to the plate. This time the junior once again came through as he smoked a fastball over the right field wall and into the K Corner for a grand slam. Fletcher followed with a solo homer to right field to finish a seven-run inning and give Nelson a 12-0 lead to work with. Mummey said following the walk he was sitting on the first pitch and was able to take advantage of it.
"He walked Fradejas on four pitches so I knew he was going to try to get ahead early," he said. "He left a ball on the middle-half of the plate. I made good contact and sent it into the K Corner."
The Tigers added four more in the fourth as doubles by Jenkins, Hargett and Mummey pushed across a pair of runs with Fletcher finishing things off with his second homer of the game. This time his shot to left field scored two and made it 16-0 Auburn. It was the eighth time in his career that he has homered at least twice in a game, tying him with Frank Thomas and Josh Etheridge for the school record.
Auburn added two more runs in the fifth on a single by McElroy and a double by Fradejas to make it 18-0. From there it was all Nelson as the junior held Tennessee to just three hits and no runs through eight innings. He went to the mound in the ninth inning to a standing ovation as he was going for the first complete game shutout in SEC play since Levale Speigner accomplished the feat in 2002 at Tennessee. Allowing just a walk, Nelson finished it off to earn the win and clinch the berth for the Tigers.
Sunday Auburn will be looking to win its fourth consecutive series as junior Grant Dayton takes the mound for the Tigers against left-hander Bryan Morgado for Tennessee. Auburn will be looking to improve its record at home to 16-0 against lefty starters this season. The first pitch is scheduled for 1 p.m.