With Tommy John elbow surgery 22 months behind him, Lawrence County pitcher Chandler Shepherd is elbowing his way into the Mr. Baseball conversation.
The senior right-hander is off to a strong start this spring. He's 4-0, with 39 strikeouts and three walks in 21 innings. He hasn't allowed a run and has surrendered just two hits. "He's throwing the heck out of it," Lawrence County Coach Travis Feltner said. "He's as strong if not stronger than ever. And he's picked up a new pitch — a cutter that's deadly against high school hitters."
Shepherd has been a pitching sensation since he helped the Bulldogs to the state tournament as a freshman. He set a state record as a sophomore by posting 46 consecutive scoreless innings and led Lawrence County back to the state tournament.
Then came elbow trouble. In July 2009, he went under the knife, with Dr. Tim Kremchek, the Cincinnati Reds' team doctor, performing the surgery. "I was worried, of course," Shepherd said. "But I knew in my mind I'd pitch again. I knew I'd do whatever it took to get back."
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Except for an inning or two in the post-season, Shepherd didn't pitch his junior year at Lawrence County. But he did swing the bat, and hit over .500. He got back in a pitching groove last summer, and he's gotten progressively stronger. "I've felt better than ever this season," he said, and his 90-mph fastball is proof.
UK was impressed. It signed Shepherd last fall.
Despite not pitching as a junior, Shepherd's career numbers — 32 victories and 402 strikeouts — already rank in the top 10 in the state record book.
Pro scouts have been sizing up the 6-foot-2, 190-pounder. Shepherd said he tries "not to get caught up with that stuff." He's focused on trying to help Lawrence County get back to the state tournament. But Feltner said if Shepherd keeps pitching well, he may have a decision to make — college or the pros? — after the June draft.
■ Strong pitching has been the key to Woodford County's strong start this season. Coach Jay Lucas' Yellowjackets have won 10 in a row since losing their first two games. Sophomore right-hander Clinton Hollon, a transfer from Lafayette, has been the ace. He's 5-0 with four shutouts and an 0.42 ERA. He has 60 K's and 11 walks in 33 innings. He had a no-hitter against Nelson County, and beat No. 5 Eastern 1-0. Sophomore righty Logan Parrett, son of former major-league pitcher Jeff Parrett, threw a no-hitter against Frankfort. Will Wireman is 1-1 with 11 K's and no walks. "Our team ERA is 1.68 which is why we're 10-2," Lucas said. Woodford County's offense has done its job, with a team batting average of .378. Chris Ares is hitting .629 and Jacob Smith .536.
■ Allen County-Scottsville is No. 1 in softball with a 13-2 record, including a victory over previous No. 1 Mercy. The Lady Patriots, who made it to the state semifinals last year, are led by junior pitcher Kelsi Pardue and senior catcher Taylor Borders, both of whom will play college ball at WKU.
■ Western Hills grad J.T. Riddle, Mr. Baseball in 2010, has been one of the bright spots for struggling UK. The freshman outfielder is hitting .320 with three homers, 19 RBI and 17 runs. As a high school senior Riddle hit .514 with 62 RBI, and was 8-0 on the mound. UK sophomore catcher Luke Maile, a Covington Catholic alum and Mr. Baseball in 2009, is hitting .272 with four homers, 22 RBI and 18 runs.
■ The University of the Cumberlands' baseball team has won 30 games. Helping Coach Brad Shelton's Patriots reach that plateau for the ninth time in 10 years: senior pitcher Trey Anderson (Paul Laurence Dunbar) is 4-1, 2.52 ERA, one save; senior pitcher Brandon Williams (Ashland Blazer) is 8-1, 2.60 ERA; senior first baseman Josh Wood (Clark County) has 22 RBI; junior third baseman Evan Bennett (Clark County) is hitting .280 with 21 RBI; freshman shortstop Jared Martin (Harrison County) is hitting .351 with 27 RBI.
■ Three high-profile players won't be trying out for the Kentucky All-Stars' boys' basketball team. Bowling Green star Chane Behanan, and Clark County standouts Robbie Stenzel and Vinny Zollo, declined invitations to the tryouts that will be held Friday and Saturday at Manual. Bowling Green Coach D.J. Sherrill said Behanan, who has signed with Louisville, considered it an honor to be invited and would love to play against Indiana in the all-star rivalry. But Behanan starts summer school at U of L the first week of June, and must complete nine hours of class work if he wants to be part of the Cardinals' trip to Australia in July. "He has to lock in academically, so schedule-wise, the (Kentucky All-Stars) won't work for him." Behanan played in the McDonald's All-American all-star game in Chicago a couple weeks ago, and he'll play in the Derby Festival Classic in Louisville next week. As for Stenzel (EKU signee) and Zollo (WKU) , Clark County Coach Scott Humphrey said he's "disappointed they chose not to compete for a spot." Clark County's Corey Rogers, who'll play football at UT-Martin, will try out. Taylor Martin of Lexington Catholic and Ryan Fucci of Tates Creek won't try out because they're playing baseball. Scott Schuette of Lexington Catholic will take part. The boys' and girls' all-star teams will be announced next week.
■ Ohio swept Kentucky in last weekend's boys' and girls' all-star basketball games. Ohio's boys won 102-100. Eastern's Remy Abell led Kentucky with 20 points. Christian County's Anthony Hickey, Mr. Basketball, had 14, and Elliott County's Timmy Knipp added 13. Ohio's girls won 63-50. Sheldon Clark's Carla Booth had nine points to lead Kentucky. West Carter's Kristin Perry and Fern Creek's Teonia McCune had eight apiece.
■ Following a family tradition, Cody Zeller of Washington High School is Indiana's Mr. Basketball. Cody's brothers also won the award — Luke in 2005 and Tyler in 2008. Cody averaged 24 points and 13.5 rebounds this season while leading Washington to its third state title in four years. Zeller got 198 of 283 votes for Mr. Basketball cast by coaches and media. UK signee Marquis Teague tied for third in the voting.
■ Former Bryan Station star Charles Ashford, a sophomore at Vincennes University, earned honorable mention junior college All-America honors. He averaged 13 points and seven rebounds, and led VU in steals as well as free throws attempted and made.
■ Kentucky was well represented in college basketball's post-season. Bellarmine won the NCAA Division II men's title. Pike-ville took the NAIA Division I men's championship, UK reached the NCAA men's Final Four. Lexington natives Shelvin Mack and Natalie Novosel helped their teams (Butler and Notre Dame, respectively) to the title games. Kentucky referees appeared on big stages in the women's tournaments. Perry County native Tina Napier officiated the NCAA title game between Texas A&M and Notre Dame (her third finals). Marion County native Lisa Mattingly refereed the Texas A&M-Stanford national semifinal. Royce Blevins of Lexington officiated the NAIA Division I finals between Azusa Pacific (Calif.) and Union (Tenn.). Marla Gearhart of West Carter worked the NAIA Division II finals between Northwestern Iowa and Davenport (Mich.).
■ Tates Creek TE/LB Aubrey Lewis and LB/SS Corey Hutchens will play college football at Thomas More.
■ Mason County named Piper Akin as its girls' basketball coach, hiring her away from 10th Region rival Harrison County. Akin had a 17-14 record in one season at Harrison County.
■ Condolences to the family of Joe Dan Gold, a former Morgan County superintendent who died this week. Mr. Gold was a basketball standout at Benton (in Marshall County) and played in the 1958 Sweet Sixteen. He was best known as a star player at Mississippi State, when in 1963 the Bulldogs defied state government orders not to play Loyola of Chicago in the NCAA Tournament because Loyola had black players. Mr. Gold's handshake with Loyola's Jerry Harkness before the game was an iconic gesture of changing times. Mr. Gold later became coach at Mississippi State.
■ Rowan County quarterback Adam Wing has committed to play college football at Marshall. As a junior last season, Wing passed for 1,730 yards and 13 TDs, and was intercepted once. He also ran for 561 yards and 15 TDs.
The 6-foot-4 Wing is also a basketball standout. His three-point shooting sparked Rowan County to the Sweet Sixteen finals where they lost to Christian County in double overtime.
■ Bryan Station volleyball standout Sherry'ce Butler signed with Tennessee State.
■ The 24th annual Dawahares/KHSAA Hall of Fame induction banquet is Saturday in the Bluegrass Ballroom in the Lexington Convention Center. This HOF class: Leonard Carpenter, Kristie Combs, Tim Cooper, Mike Deaton, Earl V. Driskell Jr., Beth Wilkerson Hammond, Gary Kidwell, Richard K. "Dick" Morse, Felton Spencer, Joey Stockton, Gladys Coomes Thompson, J.R. VanHoose and Larry Vaught. Tickets may be purchased by calling the KHSAA (859) 299-5472.
■ Rowan County senior Jared Stacy has signed to play college golf at Morehead State. He qualified for the state tournament the last three years, and had a 73.5 stroke average last fall.