WILMINGTON, N.C. -- Kentucky got 5.2 strong innings from Chandler Shepherd and A.J. Reed belted a three-run home run as part of a four-RBI game, leading the Wildcats to a 10-4 win at UNC Wilmington, on a windy Saturday evening at Brooks Field.
Kentucky (2-0) won its second consecutive game to open the season, after posting a win over No. 1 Virginia in the season opener on Friday, 8-3.
UK had a dominating start on the mound from Shepherd, who carried a one-hit shutout into the sixth inning before UNCW mounted a two-run rally to keep him from a quality start. UK got a three-run inning in the third and batted around in a seven-run frame in the fifth inning, with UNCW getting two-run frames in the sixth and seventh.
The Wildcats tallied a 12-hit attack, with three walks, two steals and two hit batters. UK was led by Reed, who went 2-for-5 with four RBI. A first-team preseason All-America selection, Reed’s home run came as a mammoth three-run blast over the right-centerfield fence, sailing into the teeth of a blistering 25 mph wind.
Kentucky also got the 44th multiple-hit game of the career of Austin Cousino, a third-team preseason All-America selection. Cousino went 2-for-4 with a walk and his second steal in as many games. Sophomore Kyle Barrett, went 2-for-5 with a double and a steal, with sophomore Ka’ai Tom going 3-for-3 with an RBI in his collegiate debut.
UK also got a hit from Max Kuhn, who had two doubles on Friday, and a hit from freshman second baseman Connor Heady. Thomas Bernal reached base three times in the game, scoring once, with catcher Micheal Thomas drawing a walk and scoring a run.
The two-time defending Colonial Athletic Association regular-season champions, UNC Wilmington (1-1) suffered its first loss of the season, after posting a 5-3 win over VMI in the first day Hughes Brother Invitational on Friday.
A native of Louisa, Ky., Shepherd (1-0) worked 5.2 innings, allowing four hits and two runs, walking two and striking out four. Ranked as the 70th-best college prospect available in the 2014 MLB Draft in the preseason by Baseball America, Shepherd cruised through five innings, facing just two hitters over the minimum, scattering just a hit batter and a single. In the sixth inning, Shepherd – who made 25 relief appearances in 2013 – found himself in a base-loaded jam, with UK turning to freshman Logan Salow. Salow got a strikeout of a right-handed pitch hitter to get out of the threat, working 2.1 innings, allowing three hits and two unearned runs, walking one, striking out five. A native of Ashland, Ky., Salow’s first four collegiate outs came as strikeouts. Junior right-hander Spencer Jack then made his collegiate debut with a perfect ninth inning, with one strikeout.
UNC Wilmington starter Jordan Ramsey (0-1) – the 2013 CAA ERA leader – worked 4.2 innings, allowing 10 hits and 10 runs, striking out four. Ramsey entered the start off a season that saw him own a league-best 2.34 ERA in 104 innings. UNCW then turned to Will Shepley as the first arm out of the bullpen, working 1.1 innings, before Cory Gantz worked a shutout frame. Jared Gessell came on to start the eighth, with Teddy Cillis working the ninth.
Kentucky will return to action on Sunday, facing VMI at 10 a.m. ET at Brooks Field. Fans in Lexington can hear the game live on WWTF 1580-AM and online at UKathletics.com, with Dick Gabriel calling the action. UK will send sophomore right-hander Kyle Cody to the mound to face off with VMI right-hander Andrew Woods.
The Wildcats got on the board in the top of the third inning, as Cousino singled up the middle with one out. Kuhn followed with singled to rightfield to put two runners on for Reed. With a 25 mph wind blowing from right to leftfield, Reed belted a no-doubt blast out to right-centerfield, giving UK a 3-0 lead.
Kentucky batted around to blow the game open with seven runs in the top of the fifth inning. Barrett led off the inning by reaching on an error and after a fly out, Kuhn beat out the back end of a double play to reach on a fielder’s choice. Reed followed and smashed a double off the diving glove of centerfielder Josh Abshire, scoring Kuhn. Bernal was then hit by a pitch and Thomas forced in Reed after hitting into a throwing error. Reida then drilled a double into the gap in right-centerfield, scoring Bernal and Thomas. Tom then singled up the middle to score Reida, with Heady scoring Tom with a single into rightfield. Barrett then belted a double off the wall in leftfield, scoring Heady with an opposite-field double.
The Seahawks got on the board in the bottom of the sixth inning, as Abshire singled with one out into left-centerfield. Luis Renvil replaced him at first on a fielder’s choice, with Luke Dunlap then drawing the first walk of the game. Corey Dick delivered the first RBI hit of the game for UNCW, with Ryan LaGrange following with his own RBI single up the middle.
In the bottom of the seventh, UNCW rallied with a pair of unearned runs after a two-out UK error. Terrence Connelly reached on a one-out single that dribbled down the first base line. Salow fielded it on the run and made an off-balance throw to Bernal at first, with his throw skipping in the dirt under the glove, with Heady wisely backing up the play down the rightfield line. Renvil then reached on an error and Dunlap drew a full-count walk. Dick then lofted a blooper into shallow centerfield, just getting under the diving glove of Cousino for a two-run single.