Freshman shines for Cavaliers
Published 1:11 pm Friday, May 10, 2019
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
He was scuffling a bit.
After breezing through the first five innings and only giving up one run, Callaway’s Justin Moore ran into some problems in the sixth inning of Wednesday’s state-playoff game against Bacon County.
The Raiders scored three runs on three hits and a walk in the sixth inning, cutting what had been a five-run deficit to two.
Callaway head coach Dusty Hubbard never considered making a change, though.
He had unwavering confidence in his freshman pitcher to get the job done, and that faith wasn’t misplaced.
Moore got out of the sixth-inning jam without any more runs scoring, and he worked around a leadoff double in the seventh inning to finish off the complete game.
Callaway won 6-4 to finish the sweep and advance to the semifinals of the Class AA state playoffs.
“You judge kids a lot of times by how hard they compete,” Hubbard said. “We don’t have a kid that will compete harder than him.”
Moore has been on the mound for each of Callaway’s series-clinching wins in the playoffs. He threw 5 1/3 strong innings in an 8-6 win over Banks County in round one, and he pitched a complete-game four-hitter against Model in a 4-1 victory in round two.
Against a strong-hitting Bacon County team, Moore threw another complete game, working around eight hits and four walks to get the job done.
“From beginning to end, he did really good,” said catcher Luke Swann, who has been behind the plate for every one of Moore’s pitches in the playoffs. “The best thing about him is, they’d get the bases loaded, and he’d pitch out of it. It’s hard to find a pitcher like that, especially as a freshman. It’s something else.”
Outfielder Jabari Smith said he’s “getting used to” seeing Moore rise to the occasion.
“In the playoffs, he’s done it every week,” Smith said. “That’s back-to-back complete games.”
Senior outfielder Walt Stewart, who was the winning pitcher in game one, said “I love being behind him.”
“All he does is throw strikes,” Stewart said. “There were a couple of calls that we thought were strikes, but he just let it go and stayed composed.”
MAKING THE PLAYS: The Cavaliers found themselves trailing by two runs when they came to the plate in the bottom of the seventh inning of game one.
Callaway head coach Dusty Hubbard had a firm belief in his team’s ability to stage a comeback, though.
“Our kids would just never lay down,” Hubbard said. “You could sense it. Coach (Tim) Freeman said it in the dugout. He said coach we’re not done. And our whole goal going into that last inning was to get someone on, and get it to Braelin (Mitchell).”
Drake Wade, Callaway’s leadoff hitter, tried to get on base with a bunt, but he was thrown out at first.
Next up was Wes Marchman, and he got things started with a base hit, and Trent Sheppard then walked to put men on first and second.
As Hubbard had hoped, that brought Mitchell to the plate, and the senior lined the ball into the outfield for a base hit to load the bases, and the Cavaliers were in business.
Still with just one out, Jabari Smith came to bat, and he knew what his job was.
“I was just trying to put it in play, put pressure on them,” Smith said. “I was trying to force them to make a play that they don’t want to make.”
Smith hit the ball on the ground to the right side of the infield, and when the throw to first went awry, Marchman and Sheppard both scored to tie the game.
“That gave us all the momentum we needed,” Smith said. “When that happened, we had it.”
Mitchell, who advanced to third on the error, came sprinting home moments later on a wild pitch, giving Callaway the walk-off win.
HANGING TOUGH: Walt Stewart was the fourth Callaway pitcher to appear in game one, and he gave up a grand slam in the sixth inning that put his team in an 8-6 hole.
Stewart then walked the next batter he faced, but he got a strikeout to end the inning, keeping Callaway’s deficit at two.
Stewart threw a scoreless top of the seventh inning with the help of a critical pick-off play.
With one out, Bacon County had men on first and third when Stewart whirled and threw the ball to first baseman Braelin Mitchell, who got the tag down for the out.
Stewart got a fly-out to end the inning, and the Cavaliers scored three runs in the bottom of the seventh to get the dramatic win.
While disappointed to give up the grand slam, Stewart re-focused and didn’t give up any more runs.
“I didn’t get it done in my first inning,” Stewart said. “I knew I had to get it done after that.”
The pickoff, which could have prevented a big inning, was one of the game’s turning points.
“The pickoff play in the seventh was big,” Hubbard said. “Not many people will remember it. It was first and third and one out, and we picked a guy at first. That was huge.”