Then the opportunity just walked away.
The Indians exploded for seven runs in the third inning en route to an 18-5 victory in six innings at Riggs Stadium.
“Way too many walks. We’ve got to be able to throw strikes. You can’t play defense against walks,” said Bulldogs coach Mike Rhodes, whose starter Steven Lane (2-1) helped set Kelly’s table by giving up four of his six walks in the third frame.
Five of his six total walked batsmen ultimately scored for the Indians.
It was a discouraging turn of events for Appalachia (5-6, 0-5), which tied the game at 2 in the bottom of the first on Lane’s RBI groundout and an RBI single by Codi Collins.
Kelly, which got a solo homer from Zac Stidham in the first, pulled ahead 3-2 on Christian Kunce’s solo shot over right-center to lead off the second.
The Bulldogs moved ahead 4-3 in the bottom of the second, parlaying two unearned runs off a Cody Boyd single and three Kelly errors.
“In the first couple of innings it wasn’t like we were competing. It was like we were just going through the motions,” said Kelly coach Chad Longworth. “This is a funny game, and if you don’t come ready to play, it’ll bite you.”
Falling behind was enough of a wake-up call for the Indians bite back. Kelly’s four hits in the third included a two-RBI double by Alex Maine and a three-run blast over center by Alex Couch.
Maine (1-0) took over for Stidham in the second, the starter appearing none too happy about getting yanked after walking two and striking out two. The reliever struck out two and walked none, giving up one earned run off three hits over 3 1-3 innings.
Tyler Hall, who took the mound from Lane in the third, gave the Bulldogs a scoreless inning of relief in the fifth inning. That was the only significant lull in Kelly’s offensive onslaught.
The Indians got five runs off three hits and an error in the sixth to activate the 10-run rule with room to spare. Isaac Bolling closed. He would’ve retired the side but for two Indians errors that prolonged his lone shutout inning.
“When you play baseball at J.J. Kelly, everyone is going to get everybody’s best shot. If you lay down you may lose one that you’re not supposed to,” Longworth said.
Couch finished 2-for-2 with a double to go with his dinger. Kunce went 2-for-4 with two RBIs, and Aaron Clark was 2-for-4 with an RBI.
Nick Ascue, Mike Ascue and Drew Collins each drove in two runs apiece on singles. Collins, Bolling and Nick Sturgill each absorbed plunks, with Sturgill and Collins both going on to score.
Boyd led the Bulldogs at bat, going 3-for-4 with an RBI. Codi Collins went 3-for-3 with two RBIs.