Cavaliers will be at home again
Published 2:46 am Saturday, May 4, 2019
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
They’ll be at home again.
The Callaway Cavaliers are 4-0 in the state playoffs, and they’ve played each of those games on their home field.
Callaway will try to continue that home-field success next week when it hosts Bacon County in the quarterfinals of the Class AA state playoffs.
Callaway, the number two seed from Region 5-AA, has beaten Banks County and Model through the first two rounds of the playoffs.
Bacon County, which finished second in Region 2-AA, beat Dodge County in the first round before dispatching Thomasville in round two.
Had Thomasville beaten Bacon County, it would have hosted the quarterfinal series with Callaway.
Since Bacon County won, the series will be at Callaway.
For Callaway, making a deep run in the playoffs is nothing new.
Under head coach Dusty Hubbard, the Cavaliers have routinely advanced far into the state playoffs, and they made it to the semifinals before losing to the Benedictine Cadets.
Nearly every player who was on the field for Thursday’s playoff series against Model was a key part of last year’s semifinal team.
“They’re a veteran group,” Hubbard said. “That’s one thing. A lot of them have been in the fire. I think that showed up when you’ve been here before. The games weren’t too big for us.”
Callaway’s next challenge is a big one.
Bacon County (26-8) has won 13 of its past 14 games, and that includes all four games in the playoffs.
For the Cavaliers (21-13), it hasn’t always been smooth sailing this season, but they’ve hit their stride in the playoffs.
After beating Banks County 11-1 and 8-6, Callaway swept Model by scores of 1-0 and 4-1.
Now, the Cavaliers are two wins away from a repeat trip to the semifinals, and they’re six victories away from the program’s first state championship.
“It feels great,” said senior Braelin Mitchell, who had an RBI single in Thursday’s 1-0 win over Model. “I remember last year walking off the field, seeing those seniors knowing their season was over. We didn’t want to let that happen to us. We want to make it all the way. So we just come out here grinding, and hopefully we’ll go farther than we did last year.”
If the Cavaliers continue to pitch like they did on Thursday, they could keep playing for a while.
Dawson Wright threw a three-hit shutout in the 1-0 win, and freshman Justin Moore held Model to four hits and an unearned run in the series-clinching 4-1 victory.
The Cavaliers didn’t have a huge day offensively, but they did enough.
In the first game, Trent Sheppard reached on a single and stole second before scoring on Mitchell’s base hit.
In game two, Jabari Smith, Brooks Bledsoe and Bryce Kurian each had RBI singles, and Walt Stewart had two hits.
“They were great,” Mitchell said of the pitchers. “They went out there and did it. They won those games, because we didn’t swing it as well as we could have. They were there to pick us up. They did their thing to help us out and get the win.”
Hubbard, who has 301 wins as Callaway’s coach, has guided the team deep into the playoffs on multiple occasions.
While this may not be something new for the Cavaliers, Hubbard has made sure to enjoy the moment.
“I have to tell myself that sometimes. Don’t take these for granted,” Hubbard said. “They’re not easy. I think back to some of the times we had this year and I never thought this team would be able to fight to this point.”
While it has been an up-and-down season, here the Cavaliers are, one of eight teams left standing in Class AA.
“You have to stay consistent with what you’re doing,” Hubbard said. “Even when it’s not working, you stay consistent. If you do, they’ll eventually buy into it.”