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On another level

First Posted: 4:33 pm - June 12th, 2015 Updated: 4:33 pm - June 12th, 2015.

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Submitted Upson Lee’s Kalen Puckett ropes a base hit for Team Georgia in the Sun Belt Junior Classic. Puckett finished the tournament with a .391 batting average, nine runs scored, and seven stolen bases.

2015 has been quite the year for Upson Lee sophomore Kalen Puckett. Puckett was a huge part of the Knights baseball team’s first ever trip to the Sweet 16 this year, and was named First Team All-Region by the Region 2 coaches.

After such a spectacular season, Puckett was invited to play with Team Georgia in the Sun Belt Junior Classic in Oklahoma. The team was made up of some of the best juniors in the state of Georgia, along with one sophomore, Puckett. The tournament, played in McAlester, Oklahoma, is one of the premiere tournaments in the country, drawing interest from several college scouts from across the country.

“It was an unbelievable experience,” said Puckett. “I was able to be around some of the top players in the state. The bus rides, hotel rooms, and all the times we were together, it seemed like we had known each other all of our lives.”

In fact, there were two players who Puckett did know prior to the tournament. Pike County’s Kain English and Veterans’ Tyler Daughtry were both on the team. Daughtry was also named First Team All-Region from the coaches of Region 2, and has committed to play at Florida State University after graduating next year.

According to Puckett, a junior had backed out a week or two earlier, which allowed the team to snag up the talented sophomore. Puckett was the only sophomore on the team, but finished the tournament with a .391 bating average, more than holding his own.

“I have played up an group or two before,” said Puckett. “Growing up and playing during the summer, I played with older kids, and of course in high school their are older kids. Intimidation was never a factor; I feel I did well enough to hold my own.”

Puckett did more than well enough. In 23 at bats, Puckett finished with nine hits and scored nine runs. He also was a perfect 7 for 7 in stolen bases, leading the team in that category. Puckett primarily played second base and batted in the lead-0ff position in the line up.

Team Georgia had accumulated a 6-3 record when when Puckett left on Monday, returning to the Knights football team for summer workouts. Along with Georgia, other teams included Arizona, Canada, Colorado, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Texas.

According to Puckett, there were some slight difference from the teams he faced in the tournament from teams that Upson Lee faces during their season.

“There wasn’t a huge difference,” said Puckett. “It’s just that there were no holes in the line up. All hitters could swing it, and all pitchers hitting their spots, throwing up to the low 90’s. They really hit their spots and had good off speed stuff.”

When asked why he felt he was chosen for the team as a sophomore, Puckett says it comes down to many aspects of the game.

“I think it is the way that I play the game,” said Puckett. “It is not based off of one individual thing. My work ethic and mental part of game is probably my strength, because I can see things playing out as they start to happen. For example, I know what to do in certain situations and when to do them. As far as the physical ability, I have to work on everything because you can always be better. My dad has always taught me that, and his advice helps motivate me to be the best I can be and to play the game everyday like it will be my last.”

That game will certainly not be his last, as the Knights have will have Puckett take the mound and playing shortstop for the next two seasons.

Wes McCard can be contacted at 706-647-5414 or on Twitter @WesMc21.

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