Cavaliers tuning up for state
Published 12:52 pm Tuesday, April 17, 2018
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
The Callaway Cavaliers, with a region championship in the bag, began the final week of the regular season with a bang.
Central-Carroll surged to the lead with four runs in the fifth inning, but Callaway scored a pair of runs in the bottom of the seventh to earn the 5-4 victory.
With the bases loaded, Braelin Mitchell hit a soft grounder to the left side of the infield, and when the throw to the catcher got away, Drake Wade and Trent Sheppard scored to give the Cavaliers the walk-off win.
Callaway (20-7) clinched the Region 5-AA title with a win over Heard County on Friday, and it is playing three non-region games this week before hosting a state-playoff series next week.
While the win over Central-Carroll had no impact on Callaway’s position in the region, head coach Dusty Hubbard was happy with the competitive fire he saw from his players.
“We needed to see what we were about in a game like that,” Hubbard said. “I like the way we came back and fought. It was good to see some fight. That’s what we’ve been trying to get all year.”
Callaway had a 3-0 lead until Central-Carroll pushed four runs across in the top of the fifth to go up 4-3.
The Cavaliers were still in a one-run hole when they came to bat in the bottom of the seventh inning.
With one out, Drake Wade got the rally started with a base hit on a 3-2 count.
Next up was Sheppard, and he ripped the ball to left field for a single, and Callaway was in business with men on first and second.
Chandler Lott was then plunked by a pitch, and Callaway had the bases loaded with one out.
Mitchell didn’t hit the ball hard, but he did enough.
The ball was fielded by the third baseman, who attempted to make a play at home, but the ball skated away from the catcher allowing two runs to score.
Wade likely would have scored even if the throw had been on target.
“We had our best base runner at third,” Hubbard said. “He got a good jump. He was going to beat it.”
Callaway scored its other three runs in the fourth inning.
Kyle Campbell got things started with an opposite-field double, and he moved to third on a base hit by Wesley Marchman.
After Destin Patrick walked, Brooks Bledsoe got a bunt down to bring in Campbell with the game’s first run.
Bryce Kurian then legged out an infield single to bring in a run, and when the throw to first got away, a second run scored to give the Cavaliers a 3-0 lead.
The Lions answered with four runs in the top of the fifth, with Dylan McKinley coming through with a two-run double.
Lott, who entered the game in relief of Jabari Smith with one out, got a pair of strikeouts to get the Cavaliers out of the inning down by just a run.
Earlier in the inning, Wade made a remarkable leaping catch at shortstop that saved a pair of runs.
Marchman was Callaway’s starting pitcher, and he was terrific, limiting Central-Carroll to two hits and no runs in four innings.
Smith got the call in the fifth inning, and he struggled a bit before Lott came in and put out the fire.
Lott ended up throwing 3 1/3 scoreless innings to get the win.
Callaway will head into the state playoffs next week after winning a second consecutive region championship.
That the Cavaliers would be in this position was far from a sure thing considering the key players that were lost from last year’s team.
Hubbard said it hasn’t always been smooth sailing, but that the players have responded nicely to what he and the other coaches have tried to teach them.
“They had to be taught,” Hubbard said. “The coaches have done a great job. It’s been a battle. There’ve been some tough days at practice. But they’re picking it up. There are a lot of kids on this team that are really head strong, and sometimes you have to prove that their way isn’t the best way.
“Not only have we gotten better, but our younger guys have gotten better, which will help you down the road.”