Region showdown for Cavaliers
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
It’s one vs. two.
The Callaway Cavaliers, who have won back-to-back region championships, will open their Region 5-AA schedule with a showdown against Bremen this week.
The teams will play three games, one at Callaway today, and two at Bremen on Friday.
Bremen (11-3), which is 3-0 in the region after sweeping Heard County last week, is ranked first in the most recent Georgia Dugout Preview Class AA poll.
Callaway (5-2), which tuned up for region play with an 8-5 win over LaGrange on Friday, is ranked second in the Georgia Dugout Preview poll.
So this week’s series not only has major ramifications for the region race, but it’ll also decide who’ll be the top-ranked team in the state.
First up will be today’s game, with first pitch set for 5:30 p.m., and the series shifts to Bremen for Friday’s doubleheader.
Whatever happens this week, there will still be a lot of baseball left to be played for the Cavaliers.
“It’s only the first week. It’s a long road,” Callaway head coach Dusty Hubbard said. “You start out really good and you’re in a good spot, or you’ve got to fight. Either way, there’s so much baseball to be played, and who knows what can happen. I know Lamar’s gotten better, and Heard’s going to be itching to come back from that (sweep).”
Bremen kicked off its region schedule with a come-from-behind 6-4 win over Heard County.
Bremen trailed 3-0 late, but it rallied to force extra innings before winning it with three runs in the top of the eighth.
Bremen followed that up by beating Heard County 7-3 and 4-2 at home.
“I think they’ve got a good staff,” Hubbard said. “They’ve got four or five guys they believe in. They throw strikes. I wouldn’t stay they’ve got a power arm, but they’ve got guys that are mid-80s guys. They throw strikes, they play good defense.”
Offensively, Hubbard said “they find ways to get runs. They run the bases well. They’re just well-coached. But I think no doubt the strength of their team is their pitching staff.”
For Callaway, the outlook of the pitching staff is still taking shape with
ace Wesley Marchman unable to throw because of arm soreness.
“For us, that’s where we’re searching,” Hubbard said. “Usually at this time, you have a good idea of who’s your won, who’s your two, who’s your three. We don’t have a very good idea of that right now.”
Dawson Wright will likely get the start today, and Hubbard isn’t sure how things will shake out after that.
Walt Stewart has been effective at times in a starting role, and he threw six superb innings in a 5-4 win over Upson-Lee.
Stewart has also struggled occasionally, and he gave up seven hits and four hits against Brookstone last week.
“For Walt, it’s being able to locate,” Hubbard said. “At Brookstone, he threw strikes, but he gets consistently up in the zone, and you get hit like that. But Walt, there’s no doubt he’s got plus stuff, but can he locate. If he can locate, he’s got a good chance.”
Another candidate for a starting assignment is freshman Justin Moore, who has been terrific this season out of the bullpen.
In Friday’s win over LaGrange, Moore threw four scoreless innings in relief of Wright.
“Justin Moore, his name keeps popping up,” Hubbard said. “As a freshman, can he handle that situation? Friday may have helped him. That was a pretty good environment for him to be in. That’s what we wanted to get him in there, to see how he’d react. I think he’ll end up getting a start somewhere.”
Jabari Smith has also pitched well for Callaway, and shortstop Drake Wade made his first mound appearance of the season in the LaGrange game.
Wade came into the game with two men on and one out in the bottom of the seventh, and he worked around a two-out walk to get the save.
The Cavaliers are averaging six runs per game, so the offense has been getting the job done.
Callaway has some big boppers in the middle of the lineup, but Hubbard believes it’s the man at the top of the order that sparks the offense.
Drake Wade, a senior, has been getting it done at the leadoff spot the past two seasons.
“When Drake gets on base, we tend to be pretty good offensively,” Hubbard said. “It just causes a lot of havoc.”
Wade and number two hitter Brooks Bledsoe combined for four hits and three runs scored in the LaGrange game.
Braelin Mitchell and Trent Sheppard, the third and fourth hitters in the lineup, both had RBI hits against LaGrange.
Mitchell and Sheppard were anchors in the lineup for last season’s Callaway team that made it to the state semifinals.
Wesley Marchman provides another weapon in the lineup and he had a key RBI double in the LaGrange game, and Luke Swann has been producing in the middle of the lineup this season.
Destin Patrick, Walt Stewart, Bryce Kurian and Zach Neighbors have also been getting it done at the plate.