Auburn scored five times in the first en route to an 18-0 blanking of Tennessee, riding the arm of Cole Nelson all the way. Nelson threw Auburn's first complete-game shutout since 2005 and its first in SEC play since 2002 as Auburn improved to 34-17 overall, 16-10 in the SEC, moving into a three-way tie with Arkansas and Ole Miss atop the SEC West with four league games remaining.
"We talked all season and all preseason that our number one priority was to find a way to get into the SEC Tournament and we did that," Auburn Head Coach John Pawlowski said. "I am especially proud of Ryan Jenkins, Michael Hurst and Austin Hubbard, those guys that have been here. We can enjoy this but now we have to move onto our next goal of winning the West. We certainly are in a position of where you want to be down the home stretch."
Nelson (6-3), who hadn't earned a win against SEC competition since the opening weekend at Georgia, surrendered just three hits in the game and only walked two, needing just 93 pitches to run through the Tennessee (29-22, 12-14 SEC) lineup.
"It felt really good today and it was good for the team to give me a lead so I could just go out there and throw and let them hit it," Nelson said. "It's a lot of fun (to pitch with an 18-run lead). You can make some mistakes but you can just keep cruising along, you don't have to worry about too much."
With Nelson sitting down Tennessee batters in an efficient fashion, the Auburn bats pounded Tennessee pitching for 22 hits, including a season-high 14 for extra-bases. Trent Mummey (3-for-6, 7 RBI) and Brian Fletcher (3-for-5, 3 RBI) each blasted two home runs in the game, including a third-inning grand slam off the bat of Mummey which put Auburn up 11-0 at the time.
"This is a great feeling," Fletcher said of clinching a SEC tournament berth. "These guys have been working hard throughout the season. It's been our number one goal to make the tournament. Cole comes out here and does a great job, pitched the way he is capable of and offensively we were able to produce and get a win."
"You can't say enough about what Cole did on the mound. He pitched one of the best games I have ever seen and it was great to get that from the mound," Mummey said. "It was good to get the bats going early and get us ahead early."
With the four home runs, Auburn upped its season total to 101, two shy of the school record of 103 set by last year's club.
Auburn jumped all over Tennessee starter Steven Gruver (4-4) in the first, scoring five times in the inning and sending all nine men to the plate. Justin Fradejas (2-for-4, 2B, 2 R) led off with a double and scored on Mummey's first home run of the game. Fletcher followed with a double and scored on Ryan Jenkins (3-for-5, 2B, 3 R, 2 RBI) RBI single. A Dan Gamache (3-for-4, 2B, 2 RBI) double scored both Tony Caldwell (2-for-3, 3 R) and Jenkins to cap the scoring in the inning.
Auburn put seven more on the board in the third to go up 12-0 as Jenkins singled in Caldwell, Gamache singled in Casey McElroy (2-for-5, 2 R) and a throwing error on a Gamache sac bunt allowed McElroy to score. Fradejas walked to load the bases for Mummey, who moved into fourth on the team with his 11th home run of the season and the 30th of his career with his second grand slam of the season. Fletcher followed Mummey's grand slam with his 17th of the season to up the lead to 12-0.
A four-run fifth put Auburn up 16-0 as Justin Hargett (2-for-5, 2B) doubled in Jenkins and Mummey doubled in Hargett. Fletcher then tied Hunter Morris (2-for-6) for the team lead in home runs with his 18th, giving him a school-record eight multi-homer games in his with Frank Thomas (1987-1989) and Josh Etheredge (1995-98).
Casey McElroy's fifth-inning single scored Tony Caldwell following his leadoff double and Fradejas' two-out double scored McElroy with the games' final runs.
Nelson's complete game shutout was the first since Josh Sullivan did it against VMI in 2005 while Auburn's last complete game shutout in SEC play was off the arm of Levale Speigner against Tennessee in 2002.
Prior to the game Auburn honored its three seniors in Hubbard, Hurst and Jenkins.
Auburn will try to win its fifth straight SEC series on Sunday when it sends Jr. LHP Grant Dayton (6-2, 5.00) to the hill against Tennessee Jr. LHP Bryan Morgado 2-6, 7.03). Game time is set for 1pm CT.