LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Kentucky baseball turned in several heroic efforts during its run in the NCAA Gary Regional last weekend, with freshman Austin Cousino, senior Thomas McCarthy, freshman Chandler Shepherd and junior Zac Zellers each named all-tournament team in a voting of media at the event.
The Wildcats completed the winningest campaign in the 107-year history of the program with the best finish in a NCAA Tournament in school history. UK played an epic 21-inning game in the tournament opener with No. 25 Kent State, 7-6, the second-longest game in the storied history of the NCAA postseason. UK then eliminated Valparaiso in its first step back from the loser’s bracket. The Wildcats then knocked out the host, No. 14 Purdue, before falling in a 3-2 to the Flashes in the finale of the twinbill on Sunday, with KSU winning its nation-leading 20th consecutive game to advance to the super regional round.
The Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Year, Cousino hit .333 (7-for-21) during the four-game tourney, with a double, triple and three RBI. The Dublin, Ohio, native got hit by three pitches and stole two bases. Cousino led UK in hitting throughout the year, starting 62 games in centerfield and as the leadoff hitter. He paced the club with a .319 average, totaling 20 doubles, two triples, nine homers and 41 RBI, stealing 15 of 16 bases.
A native of Corvallis, Ore., McCarthy hit .316 (6-for-19) during the tournament with a double and three RBI. The 2011 first-team All-SEC third sacker, McCarthy drew four walks and stole one base. McCarthy batted .310 during his senior campaign, with 20 doubles, five homers and 33 RBI, swiping four bases.
Shepherd turned in a herculean effort for the Wildcats in a two-game span. The native of Louisa, Ky., Shepherd was called on in back-to-back days in elimination game situations with the UK pitching staff severely depleted by the 21-inning opening game and an injury to lefty Sam Mahar. Shepherd worked 10.2 innings in two days, with a save and a 1.69 ERA. He threw a total of 116 pitches – and 87 strikes – in the two-day span, taking the mound each inning knowing his team desperately needed to attack the strike zone to save the pitching staff.
After picking up the three shutout-inning save on Saturday against Valpo, with 27 strikes in 34 pitches, Shepherd made the start in the second game of the elimination game doubleheader against Purdue. Shepherd carried a perfect game into the sixth inning with the most efficient outing anyone could have dreamed in his biggest pitching outing of his career. After allowing two runners to reach in the eighth inning with two outs of a 0-0 game and Shepherd running out of gas, UK surrendered the three-run homer that won the eventual 3-2 game. During his freshman season, Shepherd appeared in 18 games with nine starts, posting a 3-1 record and a 3.83 ERA, with a save. Shepherd tossed 56.1 innings, walking only 16 and striking out 33.
A native of St. Louis, Zellers hit .500 (9-for-18) with three doubles and one RBI during the week. He boasted a .609 on-base percentage, drawing four walks and getting plunked by his team-leading 21st pitch – the second-most in UK single-season history. Playing both left and rightfield, Zellers stole three bases. Zellers forced his way into the UK lineup in 2012 with his toughness, work ethic and sparkling on-base percentage. He batted .311 during the year with 12 doubles, five homers and 19 RBI, stealing seven bases.
During UK’s seven games in the postseason at the SEC Tournament and NCAA Regional, the Wildcats totaled a 2.04 team ERA and a staggering .994 fielding percentage, committing just two errors, with one coming on a pickoff attempt from the mound. UK turned eight double plays in the postseason, with its pitching staff getting only 59 hits in 75 innings, holding opponents to a .223 average and a . 343 slugging percentage.
Gary All-Regional Team
Pitcher: Ryan Bores, KSU
Pitcher: Tyler Skulina, KSU
Pitcher: Chandler Shepherd, UK
Catcher: Kevin Plawecki, PUR
First Base: George Roberts, KSU
Second Base: Derek Toadvine, KSU
Shortstop: Jimmy Rider, KSU
Third Base: Thomas McCarthy, UK
Outfield: Zac Zellers UK
Outfield: Austin Cousino, UK
Outfield: Evan Campbell, KSU
Outfield: Barrett Serrato, PUR
DH: Andrew Bain, Valpo
Most Outstanding Player: Roberts, KSU