Cole Lipscomb flashes the stuff that carried Auburn to an SEC Tournament win on Tuesday
By Charles Goldberg
HOOVER, Ala. -- Coach Sunny Golloway said all along he thought Auburn had done enough to qualify for the NCAA Tournament.
Pitcher Cole Lipscomb may have punched that ticket once and for all.
Lipscomb pitched two-hit ball into the seventh and Auburn beat Kentucky 6-3 Tuesday in the Southeastern Conference Tournament to move out of the single-elimination phase of the tournament and into a game against top-ranked LSU at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Hoover Met.
"Now," Golloway said, "the tournament really starts."
Attention, NCAA selection committee: Auburn, which started Tuesday with anationalRPI of 22, improved to 35-22.
"We just really wanted to come in here and take out of the committee's hands," Lipscomb said.
Lipscomb did his best, striking out nine and holding down Kentucky while Auburn built a 5-0 lead. Kentucky cut it to 5-3 in the eighth, but the Tigers found an insurance run in the ninth as Lipscomb improved to 8-2.
"I thought," said Golloway, "Cole's performance was really special."
He wasn't alone.
"The player of the game, obviously, was Cole Lipscomb," said Kentucky coach Gary Henderson. "He was very, very impressive tonight.
"We're not the first team to have trouble with him. It's not an accident he's done a lot of winning. He wasn't just lucky tonight. He's good."
Lipscomb didn't allow a hit in the fourth and his second in the seventh. He left the game with a 5-1 lead.
Auburn will try to improve its post-season resume against No. 1 LSU behind the pitching of Rocky McCord.
"The big guy says he's ready to go," Golloway said.
"Don't you want to play the No. 1 team in the country? We do."
Auburn scored one in the third, two in the fourth and one in the sixth for what seemed like a cushy 5-0 lead. Daniel Robert drove in Auburn's first run with an RBI single and Jackson Burgreen had a 2-run triple in the fourth. A Melvin Gray sacrifice fly and an RBI single from Robert made it 5-0 in the sixth.
Ka'ai Tom hit a homer for Kentucky leading off the seventh. The Wildcats added two runs in the eighth, but Auburn's Jordan Ebert answered with an RBI single in the ninth to make it 6-3.
"I think our guys did a great job competing," Golloway said.
He said he told the team to focus on winning to move into the double-elimination phase of the SEC tourney and not worry so much about making the NCAAs.
"I really thought we were in the NCAA Tournament because of our body of work," he said.
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine