Callaway wins region championship
By Kevin Eckleberry
HOGANSVILLE – Region champions.
That has a nice ring to it.
The Callaway Cavaliers beat the Heard County Braves 5-2 in the first game of Friday’s doubleheader to wrap up the Region 5-AA title.
Callaway then blanked Heard County 8-0 in the second game to finish with a 12-0 region record.
Callaway and Heard County came into the week with matching 9-0 region records, and they’d lost just one game between them over the past month.
While it may have had the makings of a classic, hard-fought series, it didn’t play out that way.
The Cavaliers (20-7), who have won 15 straight games overall, won the three games by a combined score of 24-3, and they faced little opposition on the way to their third region championship in four years.
“The confidence is high,” senior Dylan Johnson said. “We’ve played good ball, and we’ve been practicing really well, practicing really hard, and everything’s been clicking. We’ve been all in together.”
Callaway head coach Dusty Hubbard credits the team’s seniors, Johnson, Slone Raper, Ben Griffin, Milton Turner and Josh Hanson for leading the way.
“It all goes back to our seniors,” Hubbard said. “They’re really good leaders. And our young kids watch how they practice, and they pick it up. That’s just great. I give all the credit to those five guys, those seniors. They’ve done a great job. It’s not seen so much out here. You see it at practice. They run practice at the speed they want it run.”
In Friday’s first game, Callaway was trailing 2-0 when it scored three runs in the bottom of the third inning to take the lead.
Drake Wade got things started with a double, and Kyle Campbell reached on a base hit before Johnson’s single drove in the Cavaliers’ first run.
After a Raper sacrifice bunt, Chandler Lott walked to load the bases for Griffin.
Griffin reached on a fielder’s choice for an RBI, and when the throw to first got away, another run scored, and Callaway had the lead.
The Cavaliers added two insurance runs in the fifth inning.
Johnson doubled and scored on a Lott base hit, and Braelin Mitchell had an RBI single later in the inning to push the lead to 5-2.
That was plenty of support for Hanson, who overcame some early hiccups to deliver his usual dominant performance.
Hanson improved to 8-0 on the season, and his earned run average is right around 2.00.
“The first couple of innings, I was kind of shaky,” Hanson said. “As the game went along, I got more comfortable and settled in, and we started scoring, and everything just fell into place.”
Hubbard said the Cavaliers are in great hands when Hanson is on the mound.
“Josh, if you want to win a big game, he’s your guy,” Hubbard said. “He just doesn’t let the pressure get to him. He’s won so many big games for us. There’s nothing you can do to teach that. You’ve got to have it. He did a great job in that first game.”
In Game 2, it was all Callaway.
Johnson pitched four scoreless innings to get the win, Campbell threw the next two innings, and freshman Wesley Marchman pitched the seventh and final inning.
Campbell got the scoring started with a mammoth home run that sailed way over the right-field fence for a solo home run in the first inning.
The Cavaliers added two more runs in the second inning.
Marchman scored on an error, and Turner had an RBI single.
The Cavaliers kept it going in the third inning with two more runs, and Marchman and Drake Wade both had RBI singles.
The Cavalier scored two more runs in the fourth inning to go up 7-0, and they capped the scoring with a run in the fifth inning.
Marchman had two hits for Callaway, Mitchell had a double, Raper and Wade each had hits, and Johnson and Lott each had two walks.