It’s been a roller coaster season for Head Coach Wayne Puckett and his Upson-Lee Diamond Knights baseball team. The Knights started the season out with a 6-1 record, and then lost six games in a row over the next two weeks. Since then, Upson-Lee has been back and forth with good games and some games not so good.
Looking to play better baseball down the stretch of the regular season schedule, the Knights traveled to Stockbridge with a 9-9 record and a 6-6 record in Region 4. After Stockbridge helped out Upson-Lee by defeating Woodland by a 9-5 score on Tuesday, the Knights needed to knock off the Tigers to move back in the hunt with Woodland (8-6, 10-9) and Dutchtown (7-6, 9-7) for a playoff spot. Upson-Lee racked up 11 hits and took advantage of five errors by Stockbridge to earn a huge 9-1 road victory. Kalen Puckett pitched a complete game, allowing only one unearned run and five hits in the game.
“This was probably the biggest win of the season so far for us,” said Puckett. “The win over Spalding earlier this year was big for us at the time, but since then we have lost a couple of games that we should have won, so getting this one on the road at this point of the season was huge. I felt like we really hit the baseball about as well as we have all season, and even though I didn’t think Kalen had his best stuff today, he kept his composure and let his defense work behind him by pitching to contact.”
Neither team did much offensively through the first two innings, but in the top of the third inning the Knights put the ball in play and tallied four runs. Elijah Hill led the inning off by being hit by a pitch and then advanced to second base on a passed ball. Justin Shaw then stepped to the plate and delivered a single to shallow right field, putting runners at the corners for Upson-Lee. Kalen Puckett brought home the Knights’ first run of the game with a fielder’s choice to the shortstop, scoring Hill and giving UL a 1-0 lead.
Kyle Kelly stepped up and roped a line drive to left field, moving Puckett to second base. Senior Matt Crews followed Kelly with a double roped down the left field line, scoring Puckett and giving UL a 2-0 lead. With two outs and runners at second and third, freshman Zac Gooden delivered a clutch hit up the middle, collecting 2 RBI and scoring two more runs. The Knights then held a 4-0 lead.
With a four-run lead, the Knights headed to the top of the fifth inning and it was another double by Crews which got the Knights offense going. Bennett Pardue then followed with a perfect sacrifice bunt to move Crews to third base and Zac Gooden tallied his third RBI of the game with a sacrifice fly, and as the Knights headed into the bottom of the fifth inning, Upson-Lee held a 5-0 lead.
The Tigers scored their only run of the game in the bottom of the fifth inning. After a fielding error by Gooden at second base, the Tigers stole a base and scored on a base hit later in the inning. However, Puckett was able to get out of the inning without any further damage and UL still led by a 5-1 score.
The Knights put the game away in the top of the seventh inning, scoring four runs and taking advantage of some Stockbridge fielding mishaps. Bennett Pardue led the inning off with a line drive single to center field, but was then picked off on a questionable play at first base. With two outs in the inning, Zac Gooden and Levi Long both walked, and Brandon Blount came through with a RBI single to score Gooden. After Elijah Hill reached on an error by the pitcher, Justin Shaw reached on an error by the right fielder which scored two more runs, and the Knights sealed the 9-1 victory.
Matt Crews paced the Knights with three hits, a RBI, and two runs scored. Kalen Puckett added two hits, two RBI, and a run scored. Zac Gooden finished the game with a hit, three RBI, and a run scored, while Brandon Blount added a hit, RBI, and run scored. Elijah Hill tallied a hit and run scored, while Bennett Pardue and Justin Shaw each finished with a hit in the victory.
The Knights (7-6, 10-9) will travel to Locust Grove to take on the region leading Wildcats (13-1, 14-2) in another big Region 4 contest. First pitch is slated to start at 5:55 p.m.