The win evened the series with the rubber match scheduled for 2 p.m. Sunday. The Wildcats improved to 19-5 overall and 3-2 in the Southeastern Conference. It is the best start for UK in league play since 1996. Tennessee fell to 17-6 overall, 1-3 in the league.
"This was really a good win for our team. They came out and put (Friday's) loss behind them and battled for a win today," Kentucky head coach John Cohen said. "We have a chance to go out and win a series on the road in the SEC tomorrow and that's not something that's real easy to do."
The game was a pitchers duel through the first eight innings as each team could only scratch out one run. However, the ninth was not kind to Craig Cobb, who spoiled a solid outing by allowing the five runs.
With the game knotted 1-1, Ryan Strieby roped a double down the left-field line to lead off the ninth before taking third on a deep fly by Sean Coughlin. He trotted home when Shelby blasted one over Todd Helton Way, the street that runs behind the left field bleachers. Left fielder Jarred Frazier barely moved on the shot.
"(Cobb) was throwing three pitches for strikes, so I went up there sitting on the change-up," Shelby said. "I just hoped he would throw it and he did and I made good contact."
Michael Bertram followed the home run with a single and Shaun Lehmann launched his own two-run homer an out later to make it 5-1.
Cobb seemed to be out of the inning when Antone DeJesus grounded to the shortstop, but the ball rolled under the glove of Tony Delmonico. DeJesus eventually stole second and took third on a throwing error on the play. He came home on an RBI single by Collin Cowgill to round out the scoring.
The double by Strieby extended his hitting streak to 12 games, which is tied for the best by a UK player this year. He has also reached safely in all 24 games this year.
Kentucky led early by pushing a run across in the first for the second straight game. For the second time in the series, Antone DeJesus led off the game with a double. He came around when Billy Grace doubled down the right-field line.
After that, Cobb settled down to retired 10 straight and he allowed only three more hits until the ninth. He took the loss to fall to 4-1 on the year.
"Cobb pitched a great game," Kentucky head coach John Cohen said. "He really pounded the (strike) zone and did it effectively with three pitches. I thought he battled all day long and really did a nice job."
With Cobb shutting down the UK offense, Wildcat hurler Craig Snipp matched him by giving up just one run through seven innings. Snipp benefited from some tremendous defensive plays behind him.
With one out in the first and UT runners on first and second Kelly Edmundson roped a ball to the gap in left-center field. DeJesus got a great jump on the play and tracked it down on a diving play on the warning track to save two runs.
"As a center fielder, Antone can play with anybody," Cohen said. "He gets great jumps and covers a ton of ground out there. It's a luxury for us because we can play him out of position, but he has such great speed he can make up for it."
Shelby saved a run in the fourth that would have tied it. With one out and two men on, Delmonico roped a ball up the middle that Shelby made a diving stop on, stepped on second and threw to first for an inning-ending double play. Delmonico was robbed of a hit again in the seventh when shortstop Ryan Wilkes snared a line drive up the middle with a diving effort.
The play turned out to be big as the next batter, Brian Van Kirk, tied the game with a solo home run to left.
Brock Baber relieved Snipp after seven innings and retired six of the seven batters he faced without allowing a hit to earn the win. He struck out two. Snipp scattered seven hits and allowed just the one run while striking out four. Kentucky is now 6-0 in games Snipp pitches.