The Upson-Lee Diamond Knights baseball team is currently in a five-game slump. The Knights lost to Lamar County on Thursday by a 5-4 score, and then suffered a 5-4 loss to Jonesboro on Friday. The Knights now have a record of 6-6 and 3-3 in Region 4 play.
The Knights combined to only produce nine hits in the two games, and have seen their once five-game winning streak disappear into a five-game losing streak. On Thursday the Knights gave up two runs in the bottom of the sixth inning, as the Lamar County Trojans rallied to defeat Upson-Lee 5-4, but the biggest blow of the season thus far came on Friday night.
Upson-Lee traveled to Jonesboro to take on the Cardinals from Jonesboro High School. Jonesboro entered the game without a win on the 2014 season, but after eight innings of baseball, the Cardinals had won their first game of the season with a 5-4 victory over the Knights.
It seemed that Friday’s game for the Knights was just destined for disaster. The Knights lined into double plays, had a runner who was obviously safe called out at home, and saw the Cardinals muster three hits which somehow found their way onto grass in the outfield. The Cardinals scored two runs on those three hits.
“It was just one of those nights,” said UL head coach Wayne Puckett. “Nothing went our way the entire night. We did not get any calls, which is expected on the road, and we fell into some bad luck at the plate. I felt like we hit the ball hard, but right at them. They, on the other hand, had one good hit in the game, and three bloops which fell for hits, but that’s baseball. We can’t blame anyone but ourselves. Good teams find ways to win ball games. we have to keep continuing to grind. The season is still very young and their is a lot of baseball left to be played.”
In the first inning of the game, Kalen Puckett led off with a walk, and advanced to third base on a solid single to right field by Kyle Kelly. Matt Crews was the hit by a pitch to load the bases with no one out, but Logan Fowler hit a rocket line drive to shortstop which was dropped by the Jonesboro infielder. The Cardinals shortstop then picked up the ball, threw it home for one out and back to third base for a double play. All of a sudden, the worst thing that could happen for Upson-Lee had happened. Chris Duncan followed with a sharp ground ball to second base, as the Cardinals amazingly got out of the inning without allowing a run.
In the bottom of the first inning, Dalton Strom issued a walk to the Cardinals lead off batter. In the next at bat, the Jonesboro runner at first attempted to steal second base, but Ben Spillers’ throw to Kalen Puckett seemingly gunned down the runner (see picture). However, the umpire called the runner safe to the displeasure of the Knights in the dugout and the Knights fans in the stands. On the very next pitch, the Cardinals connected on their only hard hit ball of the entire game, a double off the right field wall, scoring the runner at second. The Cardinals took a 1-0 lead after one inning of play.
In the top of the second inning, UL right fielder Brandon Blount reached on what was one of Jonesboro’s seven errors in the game. Levi Long followed with a single to right field, moving Blount to second base. Ben Spillers then followed with a single to center field. As Blount slid home at the plate, the Jonesboro catcher swiped but missed the tag, which was late. However, once again Upson-Lee caught a bad break, as the umpire called Blount out at the plate.
Leading the Knights 1-0 in the bottom of the fourth inning, Jonesboro led the inning off with a bloop single to right field, followed by a walk from Knights pitcher Dalton Strom. After a strikeout, Jonesboro scored another run on a ball which landed in no-man’s land. As Upson-Lee’s second baseman Kyle Kelly, first baseman Levi Long, and right fielder Brandon Blount ran towards a pop-up, no one could get there in time as the ball landed near the right field foul line between all three players, and Jonesboro led by a 2-0 score.
The Knights were able to tie the game up at 2-2 in the top of the fifth inning. Kalen Puckett led off by reaching on an error, as did Matt Crews. After Puckett stole second base, Puckett came home to score on the error by Cardinals. Logan Fowler and Chris Duncan each walked in the inning to load the bases, followed by an RBI ground out by Zack Gooden, tying the game at 2-2.
The Knights took a 3-2 lead in the top of the sixth inning. Ben Spiller reached on an error, followed by a bunt single from Kalen Puckett. Kyle Kelly then drew a walk and Matt Crews his a ground ball which scored a runner, giving Upson-Lee the 3-2 lead.
In the bottom of the sixth inning, the Cardinals would get their final hit of the game, and once again it was a blooper that fell in the outfield. With the bases loaded, the Cardinals dropped a RBI single in the outfield to score two runs and give the Cardinals a 4-3 lead.
In the top of the seventh inning, Chris Duncan reached on an error and was pinch ran for by Elijah Hill. On the very next pitch, Hill stole second base. Zack Gooden moved Hill over to third base with a ground ball to second base. Brandon Blount came through with a two out hit to score Hill and tie the game up a 4-4.
As the game went into extra innings, Jonesboro led off with a bunt single. After an errant pick off throw, the Cardinals runner took second base, followed by two strikeouts from Kalen Puckett, who took the mound in the sixth inning. With a runner at third base and two outs, the Cardinals hit a screaming ground ball to first base which Levi Long played off his chest. As Long went to pick up the ball and tag the base, he attempted to pick the ball up with his glove, but the ball never made it into the mitt and the Cardinals won by a 5-4 score.
Wes McCard can be contacted at 706-647-5414 or on Twitter @WesMc21.