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AJ Shepard celebrates after hitting a home run in Indiana’s game versus Coastal Carolina on Saturday, February 17. (Photo via Indiana Athletics)
AJ Shepard celebrates after hitting a home run in Indiana’s game versus Coastal Carolina on Saturday, February 17. (Photo via Indiana Athletics)

AJ Shepard to miss ‘significant period of time’ with left hand injury

Indiana's redshirt freshman underwent his third surgery of his career to repair his injured left hand

Indiana redshirt freshman catcher/first baseman AJ Shepard will miss a ‘significant’ chunk of time after suffering an injury in Indiana’s season-opening series in South Carolina, head coach Jeff Mercer said Tuesday night.

While Shepard was playing first base in Sunday’s finale at the Baseball at the Beach event, George Mason’s Carsen Pracht hit a high-chopping ground ball to the third base side of the pitcher’s mound. Senior Hoosier right-hander Seti Manase fielded the ball, spun and fired to first base.

The throw was wayward, forcing Shepard to veer into the path of the oncoming Pracht down the line. Shepard’s glove hand connected with Pracht’s knee while running, and Shepard instantly displayed intense pain. He stayed kneeled on the ground for several minutes, and was eventually removed from the contest.

In Tuesday night’s home opener versus Miami (Ohio), Shepard was seen in shorts and a hoodie with a large wrap on his left hand while his teammates were dressed in full uniform. After Indiana’s 12-6 win, Mercer provided the first update to his status since the collision.

“He’s going to be out for probably a significant period of time,” Mercer told reporters. “I don’t know, maybe 4-6, 6-8 weeks probably.”

Shepard missed all of his freshman season on campus in recovering from Tommy John surgery, the second of his career he’s undergone. Upon the team’s return to Bloomington, Shepard posted to his Instagram story on Monday that he had surgery to repair the injured left hand.

“It’s hard,” Mercer continued. “I’ll be honest with you, it’s hard. He’s an incredible kid and a great player, and you hate it for him, obviously coming off the two years of injuries, to have that. But he’ll be back this year, and when he gets back in there, we’ll welcome him with open arms.”

Shepard has been a player Mercer has sung the praises of ever since his arrival on campus. His arrival to the Hoosier lineup has been much anticipated, and the short glimpses of play showed why this past weekend. In 10 at-bats, Shepard hit two home runs and accounted for four RBI. In Indiana’s upset win over then-No. 18 Coastal Carolina, Shepard’s first career home run helped push the Hoosiers’ lead to five – the final winning tally.

It’s unknown when exactly Indiana will once again be able to benefit from Shepard’s services when fully healthy, but Mercer trusts that the recovery will provide him another opportunity to shine.

“I was talking to him today and I was talking to my wife, like, ‘God must have the most amazing plan for this dude in the end, because he’s building a lot of character up with these things,’” Mercer said. “He’ll respond and he’ll recover, and go on to do incredible things because he’s certainly deserved it and certainly earned it.”

Indiana is back in action this weekend, traveling to Waco, Texas, for a three-game set with Baylor. All three games will stream on ESPN+.

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