TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Austin Cousino and Micheal Thomas belted home runs in the first inning and Chandler Shepherd worked into the eighth inning for his fourth consecutive win to open the year, leading No. 20 Kentucky to a series-evening 7-2 win over Alabama in the first game of a doubleheader at Sewell-Thomas Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
Kentucky (14-5, 1-1 Southeastern Conference) got first-inning, two-run homers from Cousino and Thomas, with UK adding two runs in the sixth and a run in the seventh. UK’s win at Alabama marked its first win in Tuscaloosa since the 2009 season, with UK now seeking its first series win at Alabama since 1993.
A native of Louisa, Ky., Shepherd (4-0) worked 7.2 innings, allowing nine hits and two runs, striking out five without issuing a walk. Shepherd threw first-pitch strikes to 22 of the 33 hitters he faced in the game, with his start marking the third quality start of the year and the fourth of his career. He had his streak of 20.2 consecutive innings without allowing an earned run snapped in the third inning.
UK junior righthander Spencer Jack took over with two outs and runners on the corners in the eighth inning, escaping the jam with just one run scoring to strand an inherited runner. Jack them worked a scoreless ninth inning to clinch the win.
Kentucky was led at the plate by a 4-for-4 game from Thomas, who drove in three RBI and belted his third homer of the year. UK also got hits from Cousino, Kyle Barrett, Max Kuhn, A.J. Reed and Thomas Bernal.
Alabama (11-6, 1-1 SEC) starter Justin Kamplain (2-2) worked over five innings, allowing six hits and six runs – five earned – walking one and striking out six. Righty Jay Shaw worked two innings in relief, allowing three hits and one run. Tucker Hawley started the eighth inning, working two perfect innings, with two strikeouts.
The series will conclude immediately following the first game of the doubleheader. Fans can hear the game live on the UK IMG Radio Network, with the Voice of UK Baseball, Neil Price, calling the action.
UK got on the board in the top of the first inning as Barrett led off the game with a single to centerfield. Cousino followed with a two-run homer over the rightfield fence – his second homer of the year – giving UK a 2-0 lead. Kuhn then smacked a grounder to the left side on the infield, reaching on a bobble by third baseman Chance Vincent. Reed then drilled a line drive into right-centerfield, with Alabama centerfielder Georgia Salem leaping to get a glove on the ball, with the ball bouncing out of his glove on the collision with the ground. Salem then got up and fired to second base to get Kuhn at second base and rob Reed of a hit. Thomas then followed with a no-doubt blast over the leftfield fence, his third homer of the year.
Alabama rallied in the bottom of the third inning, as Mikey White singled to leftfield with one out, with the ball popping out of UK leftfielder Storm Wilson’s glove as he attempted a diving catch. Ben Moore then singled into left-centerfield, and after a fly out, Wade Wass singled through the left side, scoring White.
UK added on in the sixth inning, as Reed singled through the right side to lead off the inning, taking second on Thomas’ third hit of the game. After a wild pitch moved both runners into scoring position, Wilson chopped a grounder to the right side, with it going as an error, allowing Reed to score. Bernal then pinch hit for Greg Fettes, singling on a 3-1 offering through the left side to score Thomas.
In the top of the seventh inning, UK got on the board again, as Kuhn doubled off the wall in left-centerfield, scoring on Thomas’ RBI single up the middle.
Alabama mounted an eighth-inning rally, as Kyle Overstreet singled down the line, with Wilson hustling over to hold him to a one-out single. Wass then doubled down the line, with Wilson hustling again to hold Overstreet at third base. Austin Smith then laced a line drive down the leftfield line, with Wilson making a running grab, with Overstreet scoring on the sacrifice fly.