Dramatic finish lifts Cavaliers
HARTWELL – Thanks to two big-time clutch hits by a pair of seniors, as well as a sensational performance by a trio of pitchers, the Callaway Cavaliers are moving on in the state playoffs.
Javoski Leverette’s two-out, RBI hit in the bottom of the seventh inning lifted Callaway to a 1-0 victory over home-standing Hart County on Saturday in the third and final game of their dramatic playoff series.
The two teams split Friday’s doubleheader, setting up Saturday’s winner-take-all game, and Callaway found a way.
Slone Raper, Dylan Johnson and Hunter Rollins combined to throw the shutout, and although Callaway managed just one run, that was enough.
With two outs in the bottom of the seventh, senior Cortney Laye kept the inning alive with a double, and head coach Dusty Hubbard put Milton Turner in to run for him.
Next to the plate was Leverette, also a senior, and he didn’t waste any time in winning the game.
“On the first pitch, Javoski hits one off the right-center fence,” Hubbard said. “That was it.”
Since there were two outs, Turner was running at the crack of the bat, so he scored easily, setting off a well-deserved celebration for the Cavaliers.
“I’m proud of those guys,” Hubbard said. “It was just unbelievable. Anytime you have a walkoff like that, it’s so fun. You don’t get a chance to be a part of those very often.”
That the Cavaliers were in a position to win the game was a credit to the performance of the three pitchers.
Raper started, and he pitched into the fifth inning before giving way to Johnson, who came into the game with runners on second and third and one out.
Johnson got out of that jam without any runs scoring thanks to a groundout back to the pitcher and a flyout, and it remained a scoreless game.
With one out in the seventh inning, Rollins came into the game with a base runner on and one out, and he didn’t let a run score.
Rollins pitched a complete game on Friday, going the full seven innings in a 1-0 loss in Game 2.
The bottom of the seventh started quietly for the Cavaliers with two quick outs, but Laye drove the ball to right center field for a double, and Leverette won it.
“He’d already had a hit in right center earlier in the game,” Hubbard said of Leverette. “Honestly, it was one of those where he got it up, and the wind was blowing that way. It just kept carrying, and kept carrying. For a second I thought it may go out.”
It stayed in the park, but it didn’t matter.
All the Cavaliers needed in that situation was a hit, and Leverette got it done.
Although only one run was scored, both teams had numerous chances throughout the game, but the pitchers on both sides did a great job of working out of trouble.
“They threw a young side-armer. He kept us off-balance,” Hubbard said. “We hit the ball hard, but we hit it at them. We’d get guys on a couple of different times, and we’d line out. You almost started feeling like maybe it’s not your day. Finally, with two outs and nobody on, we get somebody on, and the next pitch, it’s over.”
The Cavaliers came into the season with a lot of question marks because of the heavy losses to graduation following the 2015 season, but they have continued to improve, and now here they are one of 16 teams still standing in Class AAA.
“I told the guys, I’m as proud of y’all as any group we’ve ever had,” Hubbard said. “We’ve faced so much adversity. They’ve had people telling you all year you’re not as good a team as we’ve had in the past. And they just kept playing.”
Reach Kevin Eckleberry at (706) 884-7311 or on Twitter @lagrangesports