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Callaway hits road for first-round test

By Kevin Eckleberry

keckleberry@civitasmedia.com

Dylan Johnson, Ty McCann, Cortney Laye and the Callaway Cavaliers will visit Hart County in the first round of the state playoffs. Kevin Eckleberry | Daily News

http://lagrangenews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/37/2016/04/web1_CHS1-4.jpgDylan Johnson, Ty McCann, Cortney Laye and the Callaway Cavaliers will visit Hart County in the first round of the state playoffs. Kevin Eckleberry | Daily News

Noah Hammett will try to help lead Callaway to a playoff win over Hart County. Kevin Eckleberry | Daily News

http://lagrangenews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/37/2016/04/web1_CHS2-4.jpgNoah Hammett will try to help lead Callaway to a playoff win over Hart County. Kevin Eckleberry | Daily News

HOGANSVILLE – For the past four years, the Callaway Cavaliers have won at least one series in the state playoffs.

If Callaway is going to continue that trend, it will have to figure out a way to get a road win over the Hart County Bulldogs in the opening round of the Class AAA state playoffs.

Hart County finished second in Region 8-AAA to earn the right to host a playoff series, while Callaway placed third in Region 5-AAA.

They’ll play a doubleheader today beginning at 5 p.m., and if needed, a decisive Game 3 will be played on Saturday at 1 p.m.

The last time the Cavaliers bowed out in the first round was in 2011 when, after winning a region title, they were upset by the Coosa Eagles in the first round.

Since then, the Cavaliers have advanced at least as far as the second round for four straight years, and they made it to the third round in 2012, 2014 and 2015.

Senior Ty McCann, a third baseman who has had an outstanding season, said “we just want to keep the tradition going.”

The Cavaliers, who were hit hard by graduation following the 2015 season, have had a solid season, going 14-11 overall, and 8-7 in the region.

Head coach Dusty Hubbard said the team made dramatic strides from the beginning of the season until now.

“There is no doubt this team got better,” Hubbard said. “We were not really good early. But there’s no doubt that they’ve worked to get better. And we can’t be complacent with where we’re at. We have to keep moving forward.”

Hubbard will put the ball in the hands of pitchers Josh Hanson and Hunter Rollins today, and Dylan Johnson, Slone Raper and Jordan Bonner will be waiting in the wings if needed.

Offensively, Callaway’s lineup is anchored by a handful of veterans including McCann, Rollins, Johnson, Devin Brock and Cortney Laye.

“We’ve had some guys that have had really good years,” Hubbard said. “Devin Brock has done a good job in the leadoff spot. Hunter’s done a great job in the two hole. And the middle of our order has done well.”

Hart County will be a formidable opponent.

Hart County, which has seen three of its players sign college scholarships, has won eight of its past nine games and five in a row overall.

If Callaway can survive the first round, it would likely have to play top-ranked Blessed Trinity (25-1) in the second round.

It’s a daunting task, but it’s sports, so there is no script.

“It’s baseball,” Hubbard said. “Anybody can beat anybody.”

CALLAWAY VS. HART COUNTY

WHAT: Opening round of Class AAA state playoffs

WHEN: Today, 5 p.m. (doubleheader); Saturday, 1 p.m. (if necessary)

WHERE: Hartwell

HOW THEY GOT HERE: Callaway (14-11 overall) went 8-7 in Region 5-AAA to finish third ; Hart County (16-10 overall) went 12-6 in Region 8-AAA to finish second

Reach Kevin Eckleberry at (706) 884-7311 or on Twitter @lagrangesports