Shepherd sharp on mound, Thomas knocks in 6 in UK baseball's 24-1 rout

March 8, 2014 

Chandler Shepherd extended his streak without giving up an earned run to 162⁄3 consecutive innings, and Micheal Thomas and A.J. Reed each hit home runs, leading No. 22 Kentucky to a 24-1 rout of Ball State on Saturday afternoon at Cliff Hagan Stadium in Lexington.

Kentucky (12-3), which evened the series at one apiece, ahead of Sunday's game at 1 p.m., got its 24 runs on 19 hits.

"We did a great job at the plate," UK Coach Gary Henderson said. "We scored a bunch of runs without an error. We had good concentration and didn't try to do too much. We also did a great job of swinging at strikes and looking at balls. We took advantage when we were in advantage counts."

The Cats got a career game from Thomas, a fifth-year senior catcher. The former Elizabethtown star hit his first homer of the year and finished 3-for-4 with a career-high six RBI. He was also 4-for-5 on Friday night.

"Micheal does a good job of letting it travel," Henderson said. "His concentration is at a different place than it has been in his career. His swing is better and he is in better shape. He has been really focused and hasn't been trying to do too much. He has been competitive, especially with two strikes."

Thomas is batting .500 (7-for-14) with two doubles, one homer and nine RBI over the past four games.

"I have been able to see the ball better and not think too much about my swing," Thomas said. "The biggest thing in the past for me is thinking too much about my swing. When you are in a slump usually your swing is not the problem. I just have tried to clear my mind and see the ball as best as possible."

UK also got the eighth home run of the year from Reed, the NCAA leader in homers and RBI.

Reed's solo blast started the second inning. He finished 1-for-3 with two runs and is now batting .434 (23-for-53) with four doubles, eight homers and 27 RBI.

"It is really encouraging (that A.J. Reed's homer went to the opposite-field) but he has been doing that for 15 games," Henderson said. "He has done a good job of letting it travel and using the whole park. He hit a ball to right as well, but the home run was to left and that was encouraging."

Shepherd (3-0) worked seven innings, allowing just two singles and one unearned run, walking two and striking out a career-high eight.

"Everything seemed to be working," Thomas said after catching Shepherd's seven innings. "I liked how he was able to command his fastball. His secondary worked as the game went on. His cutter as well looked good in the later innings."

Shepherd, a former Lawrence County standout, improved to 3-0 in four starts.

"It was great to get a win," Shepherd said. "I was comfortable and my pitches and were starting to working for me as the game went on. I wanted to get ahead in the count and let my defense work.

"(After the loss on Friday) we needed to make a statement and we did that."

UK freshman right-hander Robert Zeigler took over to start the eighth, working around a pair of walks with a great defensive play from UK shortstop Connor Heady to end the inning. Freshman Zack Brown got the final three outs of the game to clinch the win.

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