For five years, the former LaGrange Granger had been a member of the Alabama baseball team, and that ride was going to come to an end one way or another against Georgia.
It was the final regular-season game of the season, and Alabama hadn’t qualified for the Southeastern Conference tournament, so the Georgia game was it.
When Kelton came to bat, the game was tied at 4-4, and there were two outs in the bottom of the eighth inning with a couple of runners on.
Kelton had a chance to make his final at-bat a memorable one, and he did, coming through with a two-run single to lift the Crimson Tide to a 6-4 victory.
It didn’t change the fact that the season was a disappointing one for the Crimson Tide, who finished with a losing record, but it was a special way for Kelton to put a bow on a successful collegiate career.
“I can honestly say that, even with all of the success we’ve had here and some of the great times as a team and some of the moments individually, that was an amazing moment,” Kelton said. “That was nice to go out on that note against them.”
Kelton had plenty of memorable moments during his playing days at Alabama, and that he was a three-year starter is a testament to his determination.
When it came time for Kelton to make his college plans when he was a senior at LaGrange High, he had plenty of options.
As a four-year starter for a team that went won a state championship, there were numerous college teams that were interested in him.
He knew there were places he could go where he’d be all but guaranteed a spot in the starting lineup.
Instead, Kelton decided to go somewhere where he was guaranteed nothing.
Kelton grew up as a fan of the University of Alabama, and that’s where he was going to go to school, and that’s where he was going to try to play baseball.
“I went over there with a goal and one thing in mind,“ Kelton said. “It’s something that drove me while I was there. The odds were against me. A lot of people didn’t think I’d be able to make it. I went over there having no clue if I’d ever step foot on that field.”
He didn’t see any time on the field as a freshman, and in his second year, he played in 15 games and had 14 at-bats.
Still, Kelton kept working, kept believing and maintained his faith that one day he would be an every-day player for his beloved Crimson Tide.
He was right.
Kelton became a starter as a sophomore, and he was a driving force behind a team that won the SEC title and made it to a super regional before falling to Clemson.
Kelton was a starter again as a junior, although he missed a lot of the season with an injury, and he was a starter once again this spring.
So a player who headed to Tuscaloosa hopeful of finding a place on the field ended up starting for three years.
“This last year wasn’t as good, and we didn’t have a very good season,“ Kelton said. “But to be a three-year starter and to have some of the individual and team success that I’ve experienced, it was really a dream come true. I’m very happy with how things turned out.”
The ride came to an end this season after five years, including one red-shirt season, at Alabama.
The 2010 season stands out. Down the stretch, Kelton got red-hot, and so did the team.
With Kelton leading the way, the Crimson Tide finished second in the SEC tournament, won a four-team NCAA regional and lost to Clemson in the super regional, coming up one victory short of a spot in the College World Series.
Kelton finished that season with a .286 batting average, and during one critical stretch late in the season, he had an 11-game hitting streak.
“That was the most fun year of my life,“ Kelton said. “You can’t even put words to describe that. My girlfriend, she made a collage for me of my years here, some memories and moments. There were a lot from that year.”
“You kind of forget how good certain times were. That’s nice to have. It brought back a lot of memories, because that was one fun year.”
Kelton’s 2011 season was shortened because of a foot injury suffered early in the season, and he ended up hitting .221 in limited time.
As a senior, Kelton hit .226, but he still found a way to get on base and had a .355 on-base percentage after walking 17 times and getting hit by a pitch six times.
Kelton has always found a way to get on base, and he said that stat meant a lot more in 2010 when the Crimson Tide had a loaded lineup.
“Two years ago when we made that really good run, we had a stacked offense,” Kelton said. “We had all the All-Americans. We had so much pop throughout that lineup, and my specialty was getting on base. It was great for that year. I was really able to play my game, execute and get on base. It worked out well that season.”
“Now, a guy that got on base wasn’t as big the last two years. We needed a lot more hitting. We needed more power in that lineup.”
In addition to what he did at the plate, Kelton played four different defensive positions.
Kelton’s high-school coach, Donnie Branch, said Kelton is a guy who always did whatever was best for the team.
“Not only does he know how to play, but he’s a team guy,“ Branch said. “He’s not about numbers. If they need a groundball, if they need a bunt, he gets it done.”
Branch called Kelton “a coach’s dream.”
Now that his playing days are behind him, Kelton is looking forward to the next stage of his life.
He’s in the process of getting a master’s degree in marketing, and he’s exploring a number of different career options.
Kelton said he’ll always be involved with Alabama sports, but he knows nothing will ever be able to match being a player.
“It really has gone fast, but it’s been the most fun ride I ever could have imagined,” Kelton said.