Callaway looks to take another step

Published 11:12 pm Tuesday, October 17, 2017

By Kevin Eckleberry

HOGANSVILLE – They’ve already made history, but the Callaway Lady Cavaliers aren’t satisfied.

After beating Douglass last week for the first state-playoff win in the history of the softball program, Callaway will look to keep its season going when it visits Banks County today for a second-round matchup.

The teams will play a doubleheader today at 4 p.m., and if they split those games, a third and deciding game will be Thursday.

The winner of the series will advance to the final eight of the Class AA playoffs.

“It’s like I told the girls. (Today) is going to be something you haven’t experienced before,” Callaway head coach Ashley Summerlin said. “The deeper you go in the playoffs, the louder and the crazier it gets. Whoever can handle that first wave of emotion the best, that team’s going to have a good chance to win.”

This is a new experience for both programs, since Banks County is also coming off its first-ever state win.

Banks County, the champion of Region 8-AA, took two-of-three from Pepperell last week to reach the second round.

Callaway overwhelmed Douglass 20-0 and 22-0 in a doubleheader to reach this point.

“It’s neat that you’re still practicing,” Summerlin told the players. “There are only 16 teams left. You get an opportunity to do some things that you have never been done before. You go play a good team, and we’re excited about it. I like where we are.”

Callaway (15-14) endured a seven-game losing streak this season, but it has been playing winning softball of late.

Beginning with a 6-1 victory over Temple on Sept. 26, Callaway has won eight of its past 11 games.

Callaway has played a challenging schedule, so Summerlin believes the players are prepared for what’s ahead of them.

“You’ve got Lamar County, who is a top-five team in the state. You’ve got Heard County. And then we’ve played Troup, LaGrange,” Summerlin said. “We’ve played a lot of good teams. It’s not like we’ll see something we haven’t seen before. So I feel good about it. I feel we can go there and compete, and we can do the things we need to do. I think we’ve got a good chance.”

A key to enjoying sustained success in fastpitch softball is having an effective pitcher, and Callaway has that in Oeisha Jenkins.

The junior has been slamming the door on opposing lineups most of the season, and she has been particularly effective during the recent hot streak.

Skylar Rice, one of the team’s two seniors along with Kelly Carlisle, has also done a nice job on the mound this season, and Jasmine Dukes threw two scoreless innings against Douglass.

Summerlin believes having some other options on the mound has allowed Jenkins to remain strong all season.

“Last year, I think Oeisha got a little tired at the end of the year,” Summerlin said. “We’ve been able to pitch Skylar a lot more than we did (last season). She’s got double her starts that she had last year. That helps. She’ll pitch sometime (today), and she’ll do a good job.”

The pitchers are backed up by a defense that has been strong, and that includes a quartet of outfielders who Summerlin said have done their job well.

“Outfield play is probably where we’ve improved the most,” Summerlin said. “Kailea Speer, Leijorey (Sanders), Natalie Waddell and Lindsay Cofield, those four girls have really held it down the whole year.”

The infield defense has been superb as well, with Rice at first base, Kourtney Grier at second base, Carlisle at shortstop, Dukes at third base, and Lydia Bartlett at catcher.

As for the lineup, Carlisle leads off and Dukes hits second, and both players have done an excellent job of getting on base.

Jenkins and Rice provide a lot of the power in the lineup, and they lead the team in RBIs.

Against Douglass, Rice had a monster second game with two three-run home runs.

Bartlett and Grier have produced in the heart of the lineup, and Speer, Waddell, Cofield and Sanders have been effective every-day offensive players as well.

Banks County earned its second-round spot with a dramatic win over Pepperell.

After winning the opening game of the series, Banks County lost the second game 7-4 before finishing things off with a 6-1 victory.

“Banks County has never made it to the second round, either,” Summerlin said. “So us and them are kind of in the same situation.”

CALLAWAY ROSTER: Kelly Carlisle, Leijorey Sanders, Skylar Rice, Lindsay Cofield, Jasmine Dukes, Kourtney Grier, Kailea Speer, Natalie Waddell, Lydia Bartlett, Oeisha Jenkins, Lexi Furgerson, Kalye Ann Powell and Ty Godwin.