It’s has been a tough couple of weeks for head coach Wayne Puckett and his Diamond Knights. After starting the season with a 6-1 record, the Knights entered Wednesday’s Region 4 contest with Riverdale with five straight losses and a 6-6 record.
However, on Wednesday the Knights got back on the right track and it took senior Justin Shaw just 57 pitches to toss his first career no-hitter and help lead the Knights to a 13-0 victory. Shaw also helped himself at the plate, getting his first hit of the season with a 2 RBI double in the fifth inning. If it were not for two hit batsmen, Shaw would have tossed a perfect game, allowing zero walks and striking out five batters.
“After the first couple of pitches to the first batter he really settled down,” said Puckett. “He was up in the zone in the first inning, but after that inning he was great. He gave us what we needed, someone to make them put the ball in play. He pitched to contact without walking a batter, and our defense picked him up by making plays. It was a good win for us to get us out of the funk we were in. Now we need to use this game to start another streak going in the opposite direction.”
Upson-Lee freshman Kalen Puckett started the game off with a walk, followed by a single to right field as Puckett advanced to third base. Senior Matt Crews sent a ground ball to shortstop for a fielder’s choice, scoring Puckett and giving the Knights a 1-0 lead. Logan Fowler delivered one of his two hits in the game, to move Crews to second base, followed by a hard hit ground ball between first and second base by Chris Duncan to load the bases. Crews came home to score on a pass ball, and Elijah Hill drove home Fowler and Duncan with a double to center field, giving the Knights a 4-0 lead after one inning of play.
Shaw hit the first batter he faced in the game, but then settled down to retire the Raiders without allowing any damage. The Knights got back to business in the top of the second inning, scoring three more runs. Puckett led the inning off with a booming triple over the right fielder’s head. Kyle Kelly the followed with a walk and stole second base.
With runners at second and third Logan Fowler hit a sacrifice fly to center field, scoring Puckett and giving UL a 5-0 lead. Chris Duncan next stepped up to the plate and took a walk and then stole second base. With runners at second and third base, Brandon Blount hit a ground ball to third base which was bobbled by the Riverdale infielder. In an attempt to throw out Blount at first, the Riverdale infielder rushed his throw and threw the ball away, allowing both Kelly and Duncan to score, giving Upson-Lee a 7-0 lead.
Riverdale once again was turned away by Shaw with nothing to show for their plate appearances, and the Knights went back to work at the plate in the top of the third inning. Kalen Puckett led the inning off with a solid single to right field and then stole second base and advanced to third base on a wild pitch. Kyle Kelly drove home Puckett with a sharp ground ball to shortstop to give the Knights a 8-0 lead.
The Knights added another run in the top of the fourth inning after Logan Fowler reached base on an error. Fowler stole second base and advanced to third base on a passed ball. Upson-Lee junior Levi Long drove a deep fly ball to left field for a sacrifice fly, scoring Fowler and giving Upson-Lee a 9-0 lead.
Upson-Lee put the game out of reach in the top of the fifth inning, scoring four more runs on three hits, including two doubles. UL catcher Ben Spillers was hit by a pitch to lead the inning off with Dalton Strom pinch running. C.J. Allison came in for Puckett in the bottom of the fourth inning and singled in his only plate appearance to put runners at first and second base.
Kyle Kelly followed Allison by reaching on an error and scoring Strom in the process. With a 10-0 lead, Logan Fowler drilled a double to center field scoring Allison. With runners at second and third base, Justin Shaw helped himself at the plate. Shaw came through with his first hit of the season by knocking a double to left-center field and driving home Kelly and Fowler.
With a 13-0 lead, Shaw retired the side in the fifth inning, ending the contest with his fifth strikeout of the game.
Logan Fowler paced the Knights from the plate with two hits, two RBI, and three runs scored, while Kalen Puckett belted two hits and scored three runs. Kyle Kelly finished with a hit, a RBI, and two runs scored, with Elijah Hill and Justin Shaw each earning a hit and two RBI. Levi Long added a hit and RBI, Chris Duncan also added a hit and two runs scored. C.J Allison tallied a hit and runs scored, while Matt Crews finished with a RBI and run scored.
The Knights (7-6, 4-3) took on the Griffin Bears (7-3-1, 5-0) in a Region 4 contest at Silvertown Ballpark on Thursday, but the results of the game were not available by press time. The Knights will also hit the road today for their third game in three days, as the travel to Hampton to take on the Dutchtown Bulldogs.