CARTERSVILLE - Before his team took the field for the start of Tuesday’s state-playoff game against Cartersville, Callaway’s Perry Keith had a message for his teammates.
“I told them before the game, y’all get me one run, we’ve got a shot,” said Keith, a junior right-handed pitcher.
The Cavaliers gave Keith that run in the first inning, and that was it.
The Cavaliers didn’t score another run, but thanks to a brilliant performance from Keith, that was enough.
In Game 1 of the best-of-three Class AAA state-playoff series, Callaway beat Cartersville 1-0, with Keith throwing a two-hitter.
Chase Freeman drove in the game’s only run with a base hit in the top of the first inning, and Keith did the rest.
Keith didn’t allow a base runner in six of the seven innings, and he got a double play with the bases loaded in the third inning to get out of the only jam he faced.
“That was one of the best games I’ve ever seen,” Freeman said. “The defense played good behind him, and we did enough at the plate. That’s all you can ask for.”
It was the continuation of a brilliant season for Keith, who has three shutout victories in the playoffs.
Keith improved to 8-1 on the season, and he lowered an earned run average that was a microscopic 1.28 coming into the game.
Keith, who lowered his arm angle this season, has been close to untouchable since Day 1.
“If you can change your arm angle a little bit, keep the ball down in the strike zone, you can beat anybody. It’s not very complicated,” Callaway coach Dusty Hubbard said.
Keith said the game plan coming in was to “trust my stuff, trust the coaching staff, and let the guys work behind me.”
Cartersville’s Garrett Rutledge was terrific as well, going the distance while allowing just five hits and the single run.
Rutledge had the misfortune to be locked up against Keith, though.
“He just never gave them an opportunity,” Hubbard said.
Rutledge and the Purple Hurricanes had a rocky first inning that led to the game’s only run.
Nick O’Berry led off with a base hit, and Austin Garrett reached on an error.
Two batters later, Freeman came through with an RBI single to put the first run of the series on the board.
Kevin Craft reached on the second error of the inning, but Rutledge got a strikeout to get out of the inning without any more runs scoring.
The Cavaliers had some other chances to pad their lead.
In the fourth inning, the Cavaliers had two runners on thanks to back-to-back singles by Terry Godwin and Keith, but that threat ended with a popup.
In the fifth inning, the Cavaliers had runners on first and second with no outs after O’Berry reached on an error and Garrett walked.
Once again the Cavaliers were unable to get an insurance run, though.
Cartersville, meanwhile, only had one scoring chance.
In the third inning, Cartersville loaded the bases with one out thanks to a pair of hits and a walk.
Keith got a double play to get out of trouble, and Cartersville didn’t threaten again.
After the third inning, Cartersville didn’t even have a base runner.
“We got that double play in the third inning, and he was on cruise control,” Hubbard said.
Keith said knowing the defense was making all the plays was great for his peace of mind.
“They played incredible behind me,” Keith said. “I couldn’t thank them enough.”