Callaway pitchers rise to occasion

Published 2:43 am Friday, May 11, 2018


Daily News

Walt Stewart was ready for the challenge.

As the Callaway Cavaliers prepared for Thursday’s third and deciding game of their playoff series against Thomasville, head coach Dusty Hubbard had a decision to make.

Chandler Lott and Wesley Marchman are Callaway’s top two starting pitchers, but they both threw on Wednesday, someone else was going to get the ball to start Thursday’s critical game.

Hubbard decided that Stewart, who saved a 2-1 victory on Wednesday with a perfect 10th inning, was the right man for the job.

“We intra-squadded on Monday, and he threw the ball really well, so we felt good about him,” Hubbard said. “We felt like he was going to be our guy.”

Turns out, that decision was the right one.

Stewart pitched four complete innings, and by the time he left the game with the bases loaded in the bottom of the fifth, Callaway had a 9-1 lead.

Stewart didn’t find out he was going to be the starting pitcher until a meeting before the game.

“(Hubbard) pulled four pitchers into the conference room, and he told us that I was going to be the starter, and if needed all four to pitch, he’d use all four,” Stewart said. “I was really excited. I was just trying to stay calm and collected.”

Stewart also played a key role in the second game of the series.

After Thomasville won the series opener 9-3, Callaway faced a do-or-die scenario in the second game.

After Wesley Marchman threw nine dominant innings, Stewart went to the mound for the ninth inning with Callaway leading 2-1.

Stewart got a pop-up for the first out, and he got back-to-back strikeouts to end it, and the Cavaliers lived to see another day.

Stewart said it was “amazing” to play such a key role in both of Callaway’s playoff wins.

“It’s the best feeling in the world,” he added.

Stewart was supposed to be a major contributor on the mound coming into the season, but he ended up missing about a month with an injury.

After his strong showing in Monday’s intra-squad game, Hubbard knew he was ready to appear in a game, although he wasn’t sure how long he’d be able to go on Thursday.

“We haven’t stretched him out,” Hubbard said. “He was out for a month with an arm injury, so he didn’t throw, and we just kind of babied him back, because we weren’t in a situation where we needed him. It was bullpen and intra-squad stuff.”

Hubbard used three other pitches to finish off Thursday’s game.

Left-hander Austin Barber relieved Stewart in the fifth inning, and while he did allow a pair of hits, he got a big strikeout for the third out to limit the damage, and Callaway still led 9-4.

Chandler Lott, who started the first game of the series, pitched 1 1/3 innings before he was forced to leave because he’d reached his pitch limit.

Next to the mound was Kyle Campbell, a senior who hasn’t pitched much this season, but Hubbard felt he needed an experienced guy on the mound at that point.

“He came up to me and said do you think you can throw, and I said I want to go in,” Campbell said.

Campbell gave up a pair of hits, but with the bases loaded and the tying run on first, Campbell got a groundout to shortstop Drake Wade to end it.

Coming into the series, Hubbard didn’t plan on using Campbell as a pitcher, but he changed his mind with the season on the line.

“The reason why (he hasn’t pitched much) is we’re moving him around so much defensively, we told him dude you’ve got too much to worry about,” Hubbard said. “But at that point, you’ve got to try to go to your best arm, and also the guy that’s got experience.”