The Upson-Lee Knights baseball team opened up their 2014 season with a contest against Lamar County at Historic Silvertown Ballpark on Tuesday. Upson-Lee sent out senior Dalton Strom to the mound, and Strom made just one pitch in the first inning which cost him and the Knights two runs.
With a runner at first and one out, Strom got the first two strikes on Lamar County’s Josh Heflin, but on the third pitch of the at bat, Strom’s 0-2 pitch caught too much of the plate. Helfin blasted the ball deep over the center field fence for a home run, giving Lamar County a 2-0 lead.
The Knights struggled with the bats early in the game, not earning their first hit until the bottom of the third, when Kalen Puckett drilled a line drive to center field. However, the Knights were not able to get any runners across the plate in the inning.
After giving up the two-run homer, Strom settled down and pitched very well for the Knights. He was able to pitch to contact while also recording five strikeouts in the game. Upson-Lee’s third baseman Matt Crews made two great plays at third base to keep the Trojans stranded on the base paths in the third and fourth innings, while Kyle Kelly also flashed some leather at second base with a couple of nice plays. After the first inning, Strom pitched five scoreless innings, allowing only three hits and zero walks.
Trailing 2-0 in the bottom of the sixth inning, Upson-Lee shortstop Kalen Puckett started the inning off with a solid single up the middle. Puckett would take second base on a wild pitch, and was moved to third base by a Logan Fowler single up the middle. Coach Stephen Hammock held Puckett up at third base, a call which proved to be the right one later in the inning.
With runners on first and third, head coach Wayne Puckett called on senior Chris Duncan to pinch hit. Even though Duncan did not record a hit, he had one of the best at bats of the night, Duncan eventually earned a walk to load the bases with just one out in the inning.
After the walk to load the bases, UL’s Kyle Kelly drilled a triple over the right fielder’s head, scoring three runs and giving Upson-Lee a 3-2 lead. Later in the inning, Upson-Lee junior Elijah Hill nearly hit Upson-Lee’s first home run of the season. Hill boomed the ball to deep left-center field, hitting off the top of the fence for a double, and scoring Kelly from third base. The double gave the Knights a 4-2 lead as catcher Ben Spillers came to the plate. Spillers came through with a RBI single, giving UL a 5-2 lead.
In the top of the seventh inning, Puckett turned to senior Justin Shaw to close out the game, Shaw gave up a hit and two walks with two outs, but induced a game ending ground ball to Crews at third base, and the Knights earned a 5-2 victory.
Kyle Kelly led the Knights with two hits, three RBI, and a run scored. Upson-Lee freshman Kalen Puckett recorded two hits and scored a run in the first game of his high school career. Elijah Hill had a double with a RBI, and scored a run, while Ben Spillers recorded a hit and RBI. Logan Fowler added a hit and a run scored, while Levi Long also scored a run (PR for Duncan) on Kelly’s triple.
The Knights will head down to Savannah this weekend for two games at Grayson Stadium, the same stadium where the Savannah Sand Gnats play (New York Mets Minor League Affiliate). The Knights will take on Johnson County on Friday at 3:30 p.m. and Bishop England (Charleston, SC) on Saturday at 4:30 p.m.
Follow Wes McCard on Twitter @WesMc21 for updates on the games this weekend.
Wes McCard can be contacted at 706-647-5414 or on Twitter @WesMc21.