March 22, 2014
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LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Micheal Thomas blasted his second home run in as many days and Chandler Shepherd worked into the eighth inning, boosting No. 27 Kentucky to a series-clinching 2-1 win over No. 1 South Carolina, on a perfect Saturday afternoon at Cliff Hagan Stadium.
With the win, Kentucky (17-6, 3-2 Southeastern Conference) won the third three-game series against a No.1 ranked team in the history of the UK program. UK has won series against the nation's top-ranked team in 1991 (vs. LSU), 2012 (vs. LSU) and in 2013 (vs. South Carolina). In addition, UK posted an 8-3 win over No. 1 Virginia in the season opener on Feb. 14 in Wilmington, N.C.
In UK head coach Gary Henderson's tenure, the Wildcats have six wins over No. 1 ranked teams, claiming one vs. No. 1 Vanderbilt in 2011, the series win over No. 1 LSU in 2012 and the three wins over top-ranked teams in 2014.
UK posted a 13-5 win over South Carolina to open the series on Friday, before using a second-inning homer from Thomas and a two-out RBI single from Max Kuhn in the third for the difference on Saturday.
A native of Louisa, Ky., Shepherd (5-0) worked 7.1 innings, allowing six hits and one run, walking four and striking out six. Shepherd exited with one out in the eighth inning with UK holding a 2-0 lead and two runners on base, with UK allowing just the one run to score. Shepherd has now worked four consecutive quality starts and owns five in his three-year career. Over his last four starts, he has a 4-0 record and a 0.90 ERA, allowing three earned runs in 30 innings, striking out 25.
With two runners in scoring position and one out in the eighth, Kyle Cody came on in relief, making his first appearance since a start vs. Eastern Michigan on March 1. Cody got two outs to escape the eighth-inning jam and then surrendered a leadoff double to start the ninth inning. After getting an out on a sacrifice bunt that pushed the game-tying run to third base with one out, UK turned to junior righty Spencer Jack to face leadoff hitter Marcus Mooney.
A native of Los Angeles, Calif., Jack struck out Mooney for the biggest out of the game, with UK then turning to freshman lefty Logan Salow to face dangerous left-handed hitter Max Schrock, who had belted a game-tying, pinch-hit homer last week vs. No. 12 Ole Miss in the ninth inning. Salow got Schrock to groundout to JaVon Shelby at second base to end the game and pick up the first save for the Wildcats in 2014.
The loss for the Gamecocks was just their third in the first 21 games to open the year, with South Carolina owning a 17-0 record to open the year. The Gamecocks entered the weekend leading college baseball in ERA, with UK leading the nation in runs scored.
Thomas, the SEC's leading hitter with a .425 average, belted his fifth homer of the year in a 2-for-3 game. UK also got hits from Kuhn, Shelby, Kyle Barrett and Ka'ai Tom, with Kuhn's two-out RBI single marking his second game-winning RBI of the year and the eighth of his career.
South Carolina (18-3, 2-3 SEC) starter Jack Wynkoop (4-1) worked seven innings, allowing five hits and two runs, issuing one walk and striking out seven. Cody Mincey took over to start the eighth, working one shutout inning, striking out two.
The series will conclude on Sunday at 1 p.m. ET at Cliff Hagan Stadium. The game will be broadcast live on ESPN3.com. The game will also be broadcast live on the UK IMG Radio Network, with the Voice of UK Baseball, Neil Price, calling the action. Fans in Lexington can hear the game live on WWTF 1580-AM, in Louisville at WKJK 1080-AM and online at UKathletics.com. UK will send junior right-hander Andrew Nelson (1-0, 1.99 ERA) to the mound to face South Carolina standout freshman righty Wil Crowe (4-0, 1.10 ERA).
Kentucky got on the board in the bottom of the second inning, as Thomas smashed his fifth homer of the year over the leftfield fence with one out, his second consecutive game with a home run.
UK added in the third inning, as Shelby led off the inning with a hard-hit single up the middle. After a balk and a fly ball moved Shelby to third with two outs, Kuhn smashed a 2-0 offering up the middle to give UK a 2-0 lead.
The Gamecocks got on the board in the top of the eighth inning, as Joey Pankake was hit by the first pitch of the inning and Kyle Martin followed with a single up the middle. After a sacrifice bunt from Connor Bright, UK turned to Cody in relief. Cody got Grayson Greiner to loft a sacrifice fly to leftfield to score Pankake and cut into the UK lead.