Callaway senior does it all
Published 11:08 pm Tuesday, May 8, 2018
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
When Kyle Campbell arrives at the ballfield each day, he’s never sure what his role is going to be.
During his two seasons as a member of the Callaway baseball team, Campbell has been a catcher, a third baseman, a pitcher, and an outfielder.
“When I come to the field I carry four gloves,” Campbell said. “It’s exciting. It’s something new every day.”
Campbell transferred to Callaway for his junior season, and he was a key member of a team that won a region championship.
This season, Campbell has played three positions in the field and he has also pitched.
For today’s playoff doubleheader against Thomasville, Campbell will likely be the catcher in one of the games, and the left fielder in the other.
Campbell came into the season as one of the few returning starters, and he has been in the lineup every day, regardless of where is in the field.
Outside of Campbell and a few other players, there were a lot of question marks.
As the season has gone along, Callaway’s new starters have settled into their roles and helped the team win a second straight region title and advance to the state quarterfinals.
“I think the biggest question going into the season, we lost five starters last year,” Campbell said. “So we’ve seen these young guys grow up, and they’ve really find their identity. So I’m excited not just for Callaway baseball this year, but now I have no worries about next year. Callaway’s going to be a great team. We have eighth graders and freshmen that are producing. It’s exciting.”
GOING DEEP: Coming into the state playoffs, Callaway first baseman Braelin Mitchell had one home run.
In four playoff games, Mitchell has added three more home runs to that total.
After hitting home runs in each of the two first-round games against Douglass, Mitchell hit a game-winning two-run blast against Rabun County last week.
The game was tied 7-7 in the top of the seventh inning when Mitchell launched the ball way over the outfield fence for the go-ahead home run, and Callaway won 9-7.
“He put a good swing on it,” Callaway head coach Dusty Hubbard said. “We’ve just pounded it into him. You can hit the ball out to right center. And he did it. He got one up.”
Mitchell already had two hits in the game when he came up in the seventh inning.
Mitchell got a pitch he could handle, and he hammered it.
“All night they were pitching me away, pitching me away, throwing off-speed pitches away,” Mitchell said. “He hung that one, and I got a good swing on it, and it flew out of here.”
After going hitless in three at-bats in the first game, Mitchell found his hitting stroke in the second game with three hits, two RBIs, and three runs scored.
None of those three hits, of course, were bigger than the home run that propelled the Cavaliers into the next round, and hitting it at home made it that much more special.
“It feels good to do it in front of the home crowd,” Mitchell said.
HEADS-UP COACHING: It looked like Rabun County had something going.
In the seventh inning of game two of last week’s playoff series, Rabun County had a man on first with no outs trailing by one run.
Brody Jarrard led off the inning with a single, bringing Johnathan Henson to the plate.
Henson hit a pop-up to shallow right field, and he hustled down the base line and rounded first just in case the ball was dropped.
The ball was caught, and it appeared as though Rabun County was going to have a runner on first with one out.
Before the next at-bat, though, Callaway head coach Dusty Hubbard came out to discuss the previous play with the umpire at first base.
Hubbard’s contention was that Henson passed Jarrard before the ball was caught, and if that was the case, the batter and the base runner would both be out.
After a few minutes of discussion, the umpires ruled that it was indeed a double play.
So instead of having the tying run on base with one outs, Rabun County had no base runners on with two outs.
Rabun County’s head coach argued, but to no avail, and the final batter popped out to third baseman Bryce Kurian to end it.
“Coach Hubbard knows the game,” Callaway senior Chandler Lott said. “He won’t let anybody get away with anything.”
SETTLING THE INFIELD: Earlier in the season, Hubbard was trying to come up with an infield defensive alignment that would work best for the team.
It took a handful of games, but Hubbard finally figured that having junior Bryce Kurian at second base was the way to go.
Having Kurian at second base solidified the infield defense, and he came through with a number of outstanding plays during last week’s 3-0 win over Rabun County in game one of their playoff series.
Kurian played second base last year, but he began this season as an outfielder before Hubbard decided a change was in order.
“We felt like Bryce would be more needed in the outfield. And finally we just said we can’t do it that way,” Hubbard said. “He played (second base) all last year, so we ended up going back to him. We felt like we kind of had to get some answers, and that’s where they were.”