Somewhere in the top four; that’s where Coach Wayne Puckett and his Diamond Knights hope to finish in the Region 4 standings when the regular season is over. Things looked promising for Upson-Lee after starting the season off with a 6-1 record and more importantly 3-0 in region play.
However, since March 7 in a contest with Stockbridge, the Knights have gone 1-7, with their only victory coming in a 13-0 shutout over Riverdale. To make matters worse for the Knights, four of their last seven losses have come by two runs or less, with three losses coming by only one run.
Upson-Lee is currently 7-8 overall and 4-5 in Region 4, sitting in sixth place. The Knights players and coaches think they should easily be 11-4 overall and 7-2 in Region 4 play, which would put them in fourth place. There are 10 games left in the season. Upson-Lee will see every team in the region one more time and Spalding twice. The Knights will play Spalding today at Silvertown Ballpark. The Jags lost their first region game to Griffin last Friday by a 4-0 score, the same Bears team which defeated the Knights 7-1.
In that game Upson-Lee sent senior Dalton Strom to the mound, and in the top of the first inning Strom seemingly looked as sharp as he had all year. The Knights were also able to jump on the scoreboard in the bottom of the first inning to put the pressure on the Bears. Kyle Kelly stroked a solid single to right field, followed by a opposite field hit from Matt Crews. Kelly motored over to third base and the Knights had runners at first and third. On the very next pitch the Bears catcher misplayed a bounce in the dirt and Kelly scored on the play, giving Upson-Lee a 1-0 lead. Unfortunately it would be the only run of the game for the Knights.
In the top of the second inning the Bears tied the game up with one swing of the bat from Quantico Dawson, who hit a deep home run to right field. Strom was able to get out of the inning without allowing any more damage and kept the game tied 1-1. It was in the top of the third inning where Griffin did most of their damage from the plate in the contest. Strom issued two walks and hit a batter, coupled with two doubles and a fielding error from right fielder Brandon Blount, the Bears put four runs on the board, taking a 5-1 advantage.
The Knights were never able to get anything going from the plate, while Griffin pitcher Cornelius Randolph kept the Knights off balance with a mixture of fastballs and off speed pitches. Randolph pitched seven innings allowing five hits and one run, while striking out eight batters and issuing just two walks. Randolph threw 93 pitches in the game and 62 strikes.
Kyle Kelly paced the Knights with two hits and a run scored in the game, while Matt Crews, Logan Fowler, and Kalen Puckett each added hits in the loss.
On Friday Upson-Lee traveled to Hampton to take on the Dutchtown Bulldogs in another Region 4 match-up. Freshman Kalen Puckett took the mound for the Knights and pitched beautifully, going the entire game allowing five hits and two runs; both runs were unearned. Puckett also struck out six batters and did not allow a walk in the game.
However, it was the Knights offense which once again struggled to supply their starting pitcher with run support. It wasn’t until the top of the seventh inning when the Knights got their first hit of the game. However, at that point the game was tied 1-1, with the Knights scoring on a couple of walks and an error by the Bulldogs.
In the top of the seventh inning, the Knights had a chance to take the lead. Ben Spillers laced a solid single to right field for the Knights’ first hit of the game. Levi Long came in to pinch run for Spillers and was moved to second base on a ground ball by Kalen Puckett. Kyle Kelly then moved Long over to third base with a hit to shallow right field and Matt Crews walked to load the bases. However, Logan Fowler flied out to left field to end the inning with the game still tied 1-1.
In the bottom of the seventh inning, Dutchtown hit a line drive to center field which got under the glove of Upson-Lee’s Elijah Hill, allowing the Dutchtown player to advance to second base. The next Bulldogs’ player advanced the runner over to third base with a ground ball to first base. On the very next pitch Dutchtown scored the game winning run on a sacrifice fly to end the game 2-1.
Kyle Kelly and Ben Spillers had the only two hits of the game for Upson-Lee.
The Knights will face the Spalding Jaguars (7-1, 8-3) in an important Region 4 game today at Silvertown Ballpark. First pitch is slated for 5:55 p.m.