At nearly six feet, four inches tall, the right-handed Kelly is one of the top pitchers in Georgia. Growing up close to Auburn he says that while he had offers from several schools including the Bulldogs, there was never any doubt in his mind that he wanted to be a Tiger.
"I've always been an Auburn fan and always dreamed of playing and pitching here," Kelly tells Inside The Auburn Tigers. "My family tailgates behind the center field fence for every game and after football games I used to come here and sit in the stands and picture myself pitching in Plainsman Park. It has always been a big dream of mine. I was honored that Coach (Tommy) Slater gave me the opportunity to come here and play."
Kelly throws a pitch during Monday's game against Central.
Playing in a program as dominant and powerful as Columbus High has been over the years, the chances to show what you can do are usually few and far between for young pitchers. That was the case for Kelly, who pitched to just one batter as a sophomore before becoming a full-time starter last season as a junior. It didn't seem to bother him very much though as he finished the year 9-0 with an ERA of under two as they won the state championship. He says that while the season went great it wasn't until last summer that he got an offer from the Tigers.
"They offered me this summer," he says. "We went there for a camp and Coach Slater watched me. I guess he saw something he liked. He came and talked to me and he told me he wanted me to be an Auburn Tiger. I knew right away that I wanted to be an Auburn Tiger. The only other school that I looked at was Georgia, but they're too big of a rival. It's Auburn all the way."
Kelly suffered his first loss in two years on Monday as Central defeated Columbus 5-2 at Plainsman Park. Kelly allowed just five hits in six and one/third innings and left the game with the score tied and a runner on. The run eventually scored and he took the loss. His record fell to 1-1 on the year.
This weekend Columbus High will travel to LaGrange (Ga.) to play in one of the nation's top high school tournaments as teams from Russell County, Parkview High in Lilburn, Ga., Cartersville (Ga.), Hartselle (Ala.), Davie High from Nova, Fla. and several others are scheduled to be in action beginning Friday. Last season Russell County finished the season as the nation's number one team while Nova was ranked second.