Heartbreak for Cavaliers
Published 12:09 pm Thursday, May 16, 2019
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
ROCKMART- It was within their grasp.
The Callaway Cavaliers had a two-run lead over the Rockmart Yellow Jackets in the seventh and final inning of Wednesday’s game-three showdown in the semifinals of the Class AA state playoffs.
With two outs, Rockmart was down to its final pitch when Cole Deems walked on a 3-2 count to load the bases, and Andruw Morris came through with a game-tying single.
CJ Culver followed with a two-run triple to give the Yellow Jackets the lead, and they held on for a 7-5 victory to advance to the state-championship series next week in Macon.
It was a painful loss for the Cavaliers, who were one pitch away from making it to Macon.
Austin Barber, who delivered an exceptional pitching performance in relief, threw a two-strike pitch to Deems that could have easily been called a strike.
Instead the borderline pitch was called a ball and Deems walked to keep the inning going, and the Yellow Jackets were off and running.
“It just hurts,” said Callaway head coach Dusty Hubbard, who led the team to back-to-back appearances in the state semifinals. “There were some borderline calls that could have went either way. You just feel bad for the boys. They put so much in it. This is one of the hardest one’s ever right here.”
The Cavaliers faced a two-run deficit when they exploded for four runs in the third inning to take the lead, and they added a single run in the fourth inning to go up 5-2.
Thanks to some outstanding relief work by Justin Moore and Barber, it looked like that lead might stand up.
Moore, who pitched six innings in game two on Tuesday, threw 1 2/3 innings in relief of Walt Stewart and worked around three hits and a walk to hold Rockmart without a run.
Barber took over in the fourth inning, and the left-hander tied Rockmart’s hitters in knots for most of his time on the mound.
Barber pitched 3 2/3 innings before surrendering the walk to Deems and the game-tying base hit to Morris.
“He was unbelievable,” Hubbard said of Barber. “We were going to ride or die with him. He got us to that point, and it was so close.”
Dawson Wright, the game one starter, relieved Barber and gave up the triple to Culver before getting the third out.
Armed with the lead, Rockmart turned the game over to Ty Floyd, who threw a no-hitter with 18 strikeouts in a 4-0 win in game two.
Floyd set the Cavaliers down in order to end it.
After falling behind 2-0, the Cavaliers came to life in the third inning.
The four-run rally began with a base hit by Bryce Kurian, and Drake Wade reached on a bunt single.
Next up was Wesley Marchman, and his bloop single to right field put the Cavaliers on the board and cut the Yellow Jackets’ lead to 2-1.
Trent Sheppard then reached on a fielder’s choice to drive in another run and deadlock the score, and Braelin Mitchell followed with an RBI double to give the Cavaliers the lead.
After Jabari Smith and Luke Swann walked to load the bases, Destin Patrick hit the ball on the ground, and Mitchell beat the throw home to make it a 4-2 game.
Callaway added an insurance run in the fourth inning.
Once again it was Kurian getting things started with a base hit, and after a Wade sacrifice bunt and a Marchman infield single, Sheppard’s RBI hit put the Cavaliers on top 5-2.
The Cavaliers put a pair of men on in the sixth inning but were unable to add to their lead, so they were up 5-2 heading to the decisive seventh inning.
Evan Ratcliff put the Yellow Jackets on the board with a sacrifice fly to make it 5-3, and after Sam. Sanders was hit by a pitch, Deems walked to load the bases, setting up the two-out heroics.
Marchman had three of Callaway’s nine hits with an RBI, and Mitchell had two hits and an RBI.
Wade had two hits and a sacrifice bunt from the leadoff position, and Kurian had two hits and two runs scored.
Morris, Brayden Cole and Reed Couch each had two hits for Rockmart, and Evan Ratcliff drove in three runs.
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