Diamond Knights escape with 4-3 victory over Golden Eagles

Wes McCard

April 4, 2014

After easily taking care of Eagles Landing by a 10-0 score at Historic Silvertown Ballpark last month, Upson-Lee (9-9, 6-6) headed to McDonough for their second match-up of the season with Golden Eagles (4-12, 3-8). Though the Knights only needed five innings to defeat Eagles Landing in their first match-up, Wednesday’s contest wasn’t decided until much later in the game.

Justin Shaw and Dalton Strom combine to strikeout seven Golden Eagles and allowed only five hits and one earned run, but it was the Knights lack of offensive production which kept Upson-Lee behind for most of the game. Upson-Lee scored the final run of the game in the top of the seventh inning when Matt Crews gave the Knights a 4-3 lead with a sacrifice fly to left field, scoring Kalen Puckett, who tripled to start the inning.

“We have got to do a better job of competing,” said Knights head coach Wayne Puckett. “I am happy that we got the win, but I am not at all happy with how we played. I feel like we were out there just going through the motions for most of the game. We need to do a better job of preparing ourselves to play a baseball game and getting ourselves ready to compete. There has to come a point in time where we come out to win the ball game, not just to play the ball game. We need to assert ourselves from the start of the game, telling ourselves we are not just here, but we are here to win. That’s something a coach can’t provide, instead it’s something each and every player must find inside of himself.”

Upson-Lee senior Justin Shaw took the mound to start the game for the Knights, and even without the ability to throw his curve ball for strikes, he was still able to keep the Knights in the game during his four innings of work.

“I could tell he didn’t have his best stuff early on,” said Puckett. “Usually his breaking ball is his best pitch, but he just didn’t have the snap on that pitch like he normally does. He did however, throw strikes, locate his fast ball, and pitch to contact, which kept us in the game.”

The Knights scratched the scoreboard first with a single run in the second inning. Levi Long led off the inning with a walk, and later stole second base. With the first of his two hits in the game, Elijah Hill belted a RBI double to left field, scoring Long and giving the Knights a 1-0 lead.

However, in the bottom of the second inning the Knights gave the lead right back. With two outs in the books, Shaw issued a walk and a single to put runners at first and second base. It looked as if Shaw was going to get out of the inning after the Golden Eagles hit a fly ball to a sun-drenched left field, but Kaleb Allen misjudged the ball, allowing two runs to score on the fielding error.

Trailing 2-1 in the bottom of the third inning, Shaw gave up his only earned run of the game, coming on three singles and a walk. The Knights were able to avoid any further damage with a nifty double play started by Matt Crews to get out of the inning.

The score would remain 3-1 until the top of the sixth inning, when Puckett went to his bench with a couple of moves that paid off. With two outs already in the inning, Brandon Blount laced a line drive to center field for a hit, Elijah Hill followed with a walk and pinch hitter Bennett Pardue drew a walk on a nice nine-pitch at-bat. With the bases loaded full of Knights, pinch hitter C.J. Allison hit a ground ball to shortstop which was fielded cleanly, however the throw was bobbled and then kicked around by the first baseman, allowing two Knights to score and tying up the game. On the very next pitch, the Eagles Landing pitcher threw the ball to the back stop. Pardue at third base attempted to score, but was controversially called out at the plate to end the inning.

Dalton Strom, who came into pitch the last three innings, had one of his better outings of the season. Strom only allowed a single hit and struck out five batters, including striking out the side in the bottom of the sixth inning.

With the score tied 3-3, Kalen Puckett led off the top of the seventh inning with a booming triple over the center fielder’s head. Upson-Lee senior Matt Crews brought the freshman home and gave the Knights their winning run with a sacrifice fly to left field.

In the bottom of the seventh inning, Strom gave up his only hit to start off the inning, but just four pitches later, struck out the next batter and Ben Spillers threw out the runner trying to steal second base for a double play. Strom retired the last batter on a fly ball to center field and the Knights completed the 4-3 comeback victory.

Elijah Hill and Kalen Pucket each paced the Knights with two hits and run scored, while Hill also added a RBI. Brandon Blount had the Knights’ other hit, also scoring a run, and Matt Crews drove home the winning run with an RBI sacrifice fly.

The Knights are slated to face the North Clayton Eagles at Silvertown Ballpark tonight. First pitch is set for 5:55 p.m.

Wes McCard can be contacted at (706) 647-5414 or on Twitter @WesMc21.