Last season head coach Wayne Puckett and his Upson-Lee Diamond Knights struggled when playing the Woodland Wolfpack, to say the least. In 2013, Woodland defeated Upson-Lee by scores of 18-1 and 12-0. After starting the season with victories over Lamar County, Johnson County, and Bishop England (Charleston, SC), the Knights were set to square off with Woodland on Tuesday in their first Region 4 contest of 2014.
Upson-Lee more than doubled the Wolfpack’s hits, and took advantage of hot-hitting Chris Duncan and Logan Fowler in the middle of the Knights batting order to defeat Woodland in a road victory by a 10-6 score.
“I thought we showed a lot of moxy to come up here and get a region victory on the road,” said Puckett. “Last season they handled us pretty good, but we came out with a lot of confidence and showed some patience at the plate. The most impressive thing to me is how we battled back after they took the lead in the fourth inning. Last season or in prior seasons, we may have folded at that point in the game, but this team kept battling, persevered, and came out with a much needed win for us.”
The Knights came out in the first inning and plated three runs on four hits. Kalen Puckett led the game off with a solid single up the middle, followed by Kyle Kelly, who reached on an error. After a stolen base from Puckett, Logan Fowler came to the plate, driving in Puckett with a line drive up the middle of the field. Perhaps Upson-Lee’s hottest hitter, Chris Duncan followed Fowler with a line drive single of his own, scoring Kelly, while Crews singled in Fowler to give the Knights a 3-0 lead.
Woodland added a run of their own in the bottom of the first, after lead off hitter and highly recruited center fielder T.J. Riles scored. The 6’2, 185 pound center fielder is projected as a round 5 pick in the 2014 MLB Drafter. There was a scout from the Boston Red Sox at the game to see Riles who finished the game with two hits.
In the top of the third inning, it was Duncan who once again came through with a big hit with a runner in scoring position. Duncan drilled a double to right-center field, scoring Kyle Kelly, giving Upson-Lee a 4-1 lead, but Woodland added two runs in the bottom of the third inning, cutting the Knights lead to 4-3.
In the bottom of the fourth inning, Upson-Lee starting pitcher Dalton Strom ran into some trouble controlling his curve ball. Strom hit three batters in the game, all on pitches that were curve balls. The Knights brought in Kalen Puckett in relief, and they were able to get out of the inning with only two runs scoring, as the Knights trailed 5-4.
The Diamond Knights clawed their way back into the lead with come very good fundamental baseball. After Elijah Hill led the inning off with a walk, Ben Spiller sacrificed bunted Hill over to second base. Hill stole third base, and Kalen Puckett drew a walk. With runners at first and third, Kyle Kelly hit a sacrifice fly to center field, scoring Hill from third base and tying the game at 5-5. Logan Fowler followed Kelly’s sac fly with a line drive single up the middle, scoring Puckett and giving UL a 6-5 lead.
The Knights added another run in the sixth inning after Ben Spiller hit a deep fly ball to center field to score Matt Crews, and the Knights added three more runs in the top of the seventh on base hits from Fowler, Duncan, and a fielder’s choice by Brandon Blount.
The Wolfpack added a single run on a long homer to left field, but were unable to get any closer as the Knights earned a 10-6 victory.
Kalen Puckett earned the win, pitching 3.2 innings, allowing only one run on three hits while striking out five batters. Chris Duncan led the Knights offense with three hits, three RBI, and a run scored, while Logan Fowler also added three hits with two runs scored and a RBI. Look in the game box for more stats from the Knights victory.
Wes McCard can be contacted at 706-647-5414 or on Twitter @WesMc21.