Cavaliers looking to advance
Published 11:19 pm Wednesday, May 2, 2018
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
It’s all about getting hot at the right time.
The Rabun County Wildcats brought a losing record into the state playoffs, but they looked like a formidable team in their first-round matchup with Rockmart.
Playing on the road, Rabun County got a pair of outstanding pitching performances on the way to a doubleheader sweep.
After winning the first game 3-0, Rabun County (12-16) finished the sweep with a 3-1 victory.
Rabun County’s second-round opponent will be the Callaway Cavaliers, who had no trouble with Douglass-Atlanta in the first round.
Callaway (22-9), the champion of Region 5-AA, beat Douglass 16-0 in both games to advance.
Those two teams will play a doubleheader today at Callaway, with the first game set for 5 p.m.
If needed, a third and deciding game would be played on Friday.
While Rabun County’s overall record isn’t that impressive, it went 8-4 in Region 8-AA to finish third and earn a playoff invitation before sweeping Rockmart.
“I’ve talked to quite a few coaches about them. They’re based on pitching and defense,” Callaway head coach Dusty Hubbard said. “You’ve got two pretty good arms that have carried them through region play, and carried them against Rockmart. They play solid defense. It’s one of those things, who’ll crack first.”
Rabun County’s top two pitchers are seniors Chase Horton and Grayson Lane, and they’ve both been terrific with earned run averages well below three.
In the first game of the Rockmart series, Layne pitched six scoreless innings before Jonathan Henson pitched the seventh inning.
In the second game, Horton pitched a complete game and didn’t allow a hit until the fifth inning.
“From all accounts, these guys pitch it pretty well, and catch it pretty well,” Hubbard said. “We’ll have to see what we need to do to beat them.”
For Callaway, there was no suspense in last week’s playoff series.
In a pair of games that lasted just three innings because of the run rule, Callaway outscored Douglass 32-0.
As has been the case throughout the season, Chandler Lott and Wesley Marchman got it done on the mound, with each of them throwing two scoreless innings against Douglass.
Lott and Marchman have been dominant all season, and they’ve only lost two games between them.
“We always feel good with those two guys going,” Hubbard said. “You know they’re going to give you a chance to win the game. We just have to do enough offensively to help them and play behind them, and play good defense. If we can do that, we feel like those two guys will do their part. They’ve proven that all year long.”
Callaway’s offense had no trouble putting up runs against an overmatched Douglass pitching staff.
Braelin Mitchell, Callaway’s outstanding first baseman, hit home runs in each of the games, and shortstop Drake Wade had a three-run home run in the second game.
Wade, who has been sensational from the leadoff position, had a pair of doubles in the first game before launching a home run in the second game.
Lott, in addition to being a formidable pitcher, is also Callaway’s leading hitter with a batting average above .400.
Trent Sheppard, Kyle Campbell, Jabari Smith, Walt Stewart, Bryce Kurian, Brooks Bledsoe and Destin Patrick have also been effective hitters for the Cavaliers.
Those players have helped the Cavaliers put together a strong season, and that’s particularly impressive considering so many talented players had to be replaced.
“This group, they’ve exceeded expectations up to this point, and hopefully the can continue to do that,” Hubbard said.
As for today’s series, while Hubbard doesn’t expect perfection, he’s hoping his players do enough to make it a winning day.
“You’ve love to go out and play perfect every day, but that ain’t going to happen, especially at this level,” Hubbard said. “I’d love for us to play two perfect games tomorrow, but it probably won’t happen. You hope that you make the big plays. That’s usually what it boils down to, who makes the plays when it matters.”