LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Chandler Shepherd worked a career-long eight innings without allowing an earned run and A.J. Reed collected two hits to extend his hitting streak to 12 games, leading No. 30 Kentucky to a 9-5 series-clinching win over Eastern Michigan in the first game of a doubleheader on Saturday at Cliff Hagan Stadium.
Kentucky (8-2) took a 1-0 lead into the third inning, before three unearned runs came across the plate for EMU to take a 3-1 lead. UK answered behind the bat of Reed in the third inning, before taking the lead with a run in the fourth, two runs in the fifth and a three-run frame in the seventh.
A native of Louisa, Ky., Shepherd (2-0) worked a career-high eight strong innings, allowing just five hits and three unearned runs, walking one and striking out a career-best six, retiring the final eight hitter he faced. Shepherd allowed just three runs in the top of the third inning after a UK error led to a trio of two-out runs. It marked Shepherd’s second career quality start and his first since taking a shutout into the eighth inning of UK’s NCAA Gary Regional Tournament Championship game in 2012.
Freshman Zack Brown worked the ninth inning for the Wildcats, allowing two runs on three hits.
UK was led at the plate by multi-hit games from Reed, Austin Cousino and Ka’ai Tom. Reed went 2-for-4 with a double and an RBI to extend his hitting streak to 12 games, with Tom belted two doubles with three RBI in a 2-for-4 game. Cousino went 2-for-4 for his seventh multi-hit game in 10 contests in 2014, stealing a base. UK also got hits from Kyle Barrett, Max Kuhn and Storm Wilson, with Matt Reida, Micheal Thomas and Connor Heady each notching an RBI.
Eastern Michigan (4-5) starter Tyler Russell worked 3.1 innings, allowing five hits and three runs, striking out three. Devon Bronson, Ryan Lavoie, Kristian Calibuso and Michael Marsinek worked in relief for the Eagles.
The series will conclude on Saturday, with the game broadcast 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 bottom of the second inning, as Reed led off with a single, extending his hitting streak to 12 games. He then scored after Tom smacked a double into the gap in right-centerfield, scoring Reed from first base.
Eastern Michigan answered with three runs in the top of the third inning. Nick Rotola singled with one out, with John Rubino following a grounder up the middle, going as an error to put runners on first and second. Austin Wilson then placed a perfect bunt single down the third-base line to load the bases for Sam Ott. Ott grounded to Heady, who got the force out at second base to put runners on the corners and two outs. Lee Longo then doubled into the left-centerfield gap, scoring two and giving EMU a 3-1 lead.
Kentucky immediately answered with two runs in the bottom of the third inning, as Barrett singled with one out, stealing second base. After a hard-hit lineout from Cousino, Kuhn smashed a single to leftfield to score Barrett from second base. Reed then followed with a double into the left-centerfield gap, scoring Kuhn from first base.
UK took a lead in the bottom of the fourth inning, as Reida drew a one-out walk and Wilson was plunked by a pitch. With Heady up, Reida and Wilson executed a double steal, with Reida scoring on Heady’s sacrifice fly to left-centerfield.
The Wildcats got two runs in the bottom of the fifth inning, as Cousino led off with a single, with Kuhn reaching on a fielder’s choice, with Cousino safe at second on a fielding error. After a fly out, Tom doubled into the left-centerfield gap, scoring Cousino and pushing Kuhn to third with one out. Thomas then grounded out up the middle, allowing Tom to score from third base for a 6-3 margin.
In the bottom of the seventh, UK mounted a rally that started with Cousino’s single to the right side. Kuhn and Reed then drew walks to load the bases for Tom. Tom chopped a RBI fielder’s choice and beat out the back end of a double play to force home Cousino for a 7-3 lead. Thomas was then hit by a pitch to load the bases and Reida drew a bases-loaded walk to make it 8-3. Wilson then fought off a reliever with a single to rightfield, scoring Tom.