Special season ends for Callaway
Published 9:35 pm Tuesday, May 15, 2018
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
It wasn’t the ending they were hoping for, but it was still a special ride for the Callaway Cavaliers.
Callaway’s season came to a close with a 13-5 loss to Benedictine in the third and deciding game of their Class AA semifinal series on Tuesday afternoon.
The Cavaliers enjoyed an exceptional season under head coach Dusty Hubbard.
Callaway (27-12) captured the Region 5-AA championship and won three playoff series before meeting its match in Benedictine.
“There’s only one team that’s going to win,” Callaway head coach Dusty Hubbard said. “And unfortunately, it’s not us this year. But we got close.”
That the Cavaliers would be one of the last four teams standing in the state playoffs was far from a given.
Callaway was hit hard by graduation following the 2017 season, so there were a lot of questions to be answered as the team hit the field for its season opener in February.
“Even into about the fourth or the fifth week of the season, we had a lot of questions,” Hubbard said.
Hubbard believes the close-knit nature of the players helped propel the team to the brink of a state title.
“You find a group that likes being together, and staying together, and I think that had a lot to do with the reason they fought so hard,” Hubbard said. “I’m just proud of them. These older guys showed our younger guys how you handle things. It was awesome.”
One of the team’s four seniors, Kyle Campbell, was proud of the progress his younger teammates made throughout the season.
The other seniors are Chandler Lott, Buster Perry and Chase Payne.
“I can’t even put into words the amount the young guys have grown up, and the amount they’ve changed,” Campbell said. “They’ve truly bought in. Our biggest saying throughout the season is refuse to lose, and that’s something that from the freshmen up everybody believed. And I don’t believe talent put us in the final four. We’re not a big team. We hit like nine home runs the whole season. But we grinded, and we pushed through it, and they refused to give up.”
Unfortunately for the Cavaliers, not much went their way in their final game.
The Cavaliers hurt themselves with seven errors that led to seven unearned runs, and they trailed by as many as 11 runs before scoring four runs in the bottom of the fifth to get within seven.
Callaway’s pitchers also combined to walk eight batters.
The Cadets surged to a 6-0 lead with five runs in the top of the second inning, and they were up 12-1 before the Cavaliers rallied in the fifth inning.
“We were able to manufacture some runs,” Benedictine head coach Kevin Farmer said. “I thought we were very heads-up on the base paths with some of their miscues.”
Senior Walker Barlow, who has signed with North Carolina State, got the start for Benedictine, and he pitched four innings and allowed three runs on three hits.
Barlow, who has been fighting an illness, held Callaway to one run through four innings before walking the first three men he faced in the bottom of the fifth.
It was the first pitching appearance of the playoffs for Barlow, and he said he “was really looking forward to it. We’ve been simulating game threes throughout the playoffs, so I was ready to get the opportunity.”
Harrison Peebles relieved Barlow in the fifth inning and threw one inning, and Garrison Gunby finished things off with two scoreless innings.
Benedictine appeared to be on the verge of finishing things off in five innings, but Callaway rallied to make sure the game at least went the full seven innings.
Lott had an RBI single in the fifth inning to make it a 12-3 game and take the 10-run rule out of play.
Campbell followed with a two-run single to cut Benedictine’s lead to 12-5.
The comeback stalled at that point, but Campbell was pleased to see the game go the distance.
“In the dugout (before the bottom of the fifth), I said I don’t care if we win, but I said we’re not going out like that,” Campbell said.
Hubbard wasn’t surprised to see his players extend the game.
“These kids fight,” Hubbard said. “They’re tough.”
In the end, though, the day belonged to Benedictine, which will get to play at home for the state championship.
“Being able to go back to Savannah and play for a championship, it’s going to be nice,” Farmer said. “We’re happy to have the opportunity.”
Farmer was also appreciative of the folks who made the trip from Savannah for the semifinal series.
“We had great fan support today,” Farmer said. “It was a great turnout. They take care of us and do a great job.”
Jacob Markiton led the Benedictine offensive effort with two hits and three RBIs, and Carter Holton, Garrison Gunby and Rome Dean each had two hits.
For Callaway, Campbell had a hit and three, Lott had two hits and an RBI, Braelin Mitchell and Brooks Bledsoe each had a hit, and Drake Wade had an RBI.
Hubbard used five different pitchers in the game.
Walt Stewart got the start and lasted 1 2/3 innings, and he faced some tough luck.
None of the five runs Stewart allowed were earned.
Wesley Marchman pitched 2 1/3 innings, and Lott, Dawson Wright and Campbell each threw one inning.
After the final out in the bottom of the seventh, Hubbard brought his players together for one final post-game meeting.
He expressed his appreciation for everything they’d done during a phenomenal season that ended three victories short of a state championship.
“I couldn’t ask for anything more,” Hubbard said.