Shepherd Fires 7 2/3 scoreless innings in loss to Kent State,
GARY, Ind. — Bouncing back from about as tough a loss on record, Kentucky stayed alive in NCAA Regional play Saturday.
The Wildcats (44-16) tied a school record for single-season victories, upending Valparaiso 8-1 at U.S. Steel Yard.
UK lost Friday’s opener to Kent State in the second-longest game in NCAA tourney history, 7-6 in 21 innings.
Saturday’s win kept second-seeded and 11th-ranked UK alive in the double-elimination tournament.
The Cats will play Sunday at 4 p.m. ET against the loser of Saturday’s late game between top-seeded Purdue and third-seeded Kent.
The Purdue-Kent winner will play the survivor of Sunday’s elimination game that night at 8. If necessary, a final game would be played Monday.
Horizon League champion and fourth-seeded Valparaiso (35-25) goes home — just 27 miles away — after making its first NCAA appearance since 1968.
Every Kentucky starter had at least one hit as the Cats outhit the Crusaders 12-7. Austin Cousino led the attack with three hits, including a double.
With a bullpen decimated by Friday’s marathon, UK needed a strong start Saturday from Jerad Grundy.
The left-hander answered the bell.
Grundy (6-3) held Valpo to one run on five hits through six innings, then turned things over to Chandler Shepherd. Shepherd was sharp himself, throwing three innings of shutout relief. The Lawrence County native allowed two hits, struck out two and didn't walk a batter for his first save as a collegian. He is 3-1 this season for the Wildcats.
Shepherd led Lawrence County to three state tourney appearances during his illustrious career for the Scarlet and Black. He holds career records in several categories at LCHS. Shepherd was selected in the MLB draft last year but chose to go the college route instead.
By Mark Maloney
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Shepherd starts Kent State game and allows no runs in 7 innings
GARY, Ind. — Evan Campbell broke a scoreless tie with a controversial three-run homer in the eighth inning as Kent State defeated Kentucky 3-2 Sunday night to win the NCAA Regional title at U.S. Steel Yard.
Kent State edged UK 7-6 in Friday's opener — at 21 innings, the second-longest game in NCAA tourney history.
The Flashes knocked off Purdue on Saturday, then got to watch as Kentucky beat Purdue in an elimination game earlier Sunday.
Kentucky (45-18) won that game, but needed to beat Kent State in order to force another game in the double-elimination tourney.
So Kent State, making its fourth consecutive NCAA appearance, advanced to next weekend's Super Regional play at Eugene, Ore., to meet Oregon's Ducks.
U.K. head coach Gary Henderson said before the game that he'd use his pitching staff similar to the way he did when the Cats met Arizona in a 2008 second-game-of-the-day finale in the Ann Arbor (Mich.) Regional. He used eight pitchers in that game, which Arizona won.
Lawrence County's Chandler Shepherd had other ideas, though.
The freshman right-hander, who picked up his first collegiate save Saturday against Valparaiso, merely came out and fired 51⁄3 innings of perfect ball — 16 up, 16 down.
Kent's No. 8 hitter, Joe Koch, broke the perfecto with a line single to left field.
Including Saturday's save, Shepherd retired 19 in a row.
Koch was erased on a fielder's choice, with Derek Toadvine barely beating the double-play relay to first.
Henderson argued the safe call at first, and replays appeared to show the UK coach was correct.
No matter, though, as Shepherd struck out Evan Campbell.
Shepherd worked 7 and 2⁄3 innings, gave up four hits and a walk, striking out four.
He left with the game scoreless, but with runners on the corners.
"Obviously disappointed to lose," Henderson said. "Proud of our kids. Proud of the effort. Proud of the concentration. Very impressed and pleased with Chandler Shepherd's effort tonight. ... Really proud of what our returners, specifically were able to do this year."
■ All-tournament team — P Bores and Skulina (Kent), Shepherd (UK). C Plawecki (P); 1B Roberts (Kent); 2B Toadvine (Kent); SS Rider (Kent); 3B McCarthy (UK); OF Zellers and Cousino (UK), Campbell (Kent); DH Bain (Valpo). Most outstanding player: Roberts (Kent).
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