Emotional journey for seniors

Published 12:46 pm Monday, May 14, 2018


Daily News

A year ago, Kyle Campbell was behind the plate at catcher when Callaway’s season ended with a second-round playoff loss.

On the last play of the game, Campbell made a defensive miscue that allowed the winning run to score and end Callaway’s season.

It was just one play out of dozens that helped determine the game’s outcome, but it stuck with Campbell.

Last week, Campbell was once again the focal point of the final moment of a playoff game, but unlike a year ago, it’s a memory that will bring a smile to his face.

Campbell hasn’t pitched much this season, but head coach Dusty Hubbard called on him to get the final two outs of the third and final game of a Class AA playoff series against Thomasville.

Campbell was up to the challenge, and the game ended when he got a Thomasville batter to ground out to short stop Drake Wade.

Following the game, Callaway head coach Dusty Hubbard met with his players to congratulate them on advancing to the semifinals of the Class AA state playoffs.

One of the people Hubbard singled out was Campbell, who he knew struggled in the aftermath of last year’s season-ending loss.

When the post-game meeting ended, Campbell went down to his knees as the emotion of the

moment got the best of him, and his teammates huddled around him to support him, just as they did a year ago.

For Campbell, the way the 2017 season ended served as fuel as he headed into the offseason and looked forward to his senior year.

“I was catching, and there was a little dribbler, and I made a bad throw and that ended our season,” Campbell said, recalling that play from a year ago. “That was kind of the motivation in the offseason. I lost 25 pounds, and worked on speed and different things. Even when the season started, that’s something that was on me.”

Campbell has had a big senior season as a versatile member of the Callaway baseball team.

He has been a catcher, a third baseman, an outfielder, and a pitcher, all while serving as an anchor in the lineup.

Campbell began last week’s third and deciding playoff game against Thomasville as a left-fielder, and he didn’t think he’d end up pitching.

In the seventh inning, though, fellow senior Chandler Lott reached his pitch limit, so Hubbard needed someone else to try to close out the game.

Hubbard explored his options, and he decided to go with Campbell, even though he hasn’t pitched much this season.

“The reason why is we’re moving him around so much defensively, we told him dude you’ve got too much to worry about,” Hubbard said.

With the season on the line, though, Hubbard went with Campbell.

“At that point, you’ve got to try to go to your best arm, and also the guy that’s got experience,” Hubbard said.

For Campbell, it was an unexpected move, but he wanted the baseball.

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

The man Campbell relieved in that final game of the Thomasville series, Chandler Lott, is also a senior.

Campbell and Lott, in fact, both transferred to Callaway before the 2017 season from Springwood School.

Like Campbell, Lott has been an integral member of a team that is now four wins away from a state championship.

Lott has been Callaway’s top pitcher this season, and when he isn’t on the mound, he’s the team’s catcher.

Lott also leads the team in many offensive categories, and he has a batting average well above .400.

After starting in the first game of the Thomasville series, a 9-3 loss, Lott pitched 1 1/3 innings in the third game before he reached his pitch limit.

Although rarely called upon in relief, Lott was eager for the opportunity.

“I like to come into situations like that to close a big game out,” Hubbard said. “It teaches you how to fight.”

When Lott left the mound and put the catcher’s gear on, he had nothing but confidence that the Cavaliers would get the job done.

When Lott saw the ball headed in Wade’s direction at shortstop, he knew the game was over.

“I know there at the end we had a couple of booted balls but I knew deep down that when Kyle got that kid to roll over that Drake was going to make the play,” Lott said. “That’s what I was banking on. When it comes down to a game like that, I want to put it in Drake’s hands in the field. When it’s on the line, he goes to work.”

Lott added that “everybody on this team contributed and fought with everything they had.”

When Lott came to Callaway, he believed he was joining a program that had a chance to advance deep in the playoffs.

Last season, Lott was injured before the second round of the playoffs and was unable to play, and Callaway lost.

This year Lott is healthy and playing at a high level, and the Cavaliers are one of four teams left standing in the Class AA state playoffs.

“This is what we came for,” said Lott, speaking for himself and Campbell. “I didn’t come here to just win region, and I told coach Hubbard that when I first met him. I told him I didn’t just want to win region, I want to keep going. It might not have happened last year, but it happened this year.”

Hubbard, who welcomed Lott and Campbell with open arms when they arrived at the school, is glad to see them have this kind of success as seniors.

“Without them, we wouldn’t be here,” Hubbard said. “I’m excited for those guys.”