Summer baseball for Cavs, Tigers
Published 12:47 pm Thursday, June 13, 2019
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
When the Troup Tigers and Callaway Cavaliers played in the final game of the regular season, it was an intense affair that ended when Cade Garner came through with a walk-off base hit in the bottom of the seventh inning.
Those same two teams met again on Tuesday evening, and the atmosphere was a bit more laid-back.
Callaway and Troup faced off in a double-header as part of their summer baseball schedules.
The games gave the coaches for both teams an opportunity to see some up-and-coming players in action, and to put some of the returning players in different positions.
Summer baseball is all about getting the players some experience and getting a head start on the 2020 season.
“The goal of the summer is to obviously get reps, get your at-bats, get your innings, but it’s also seeing how we’re going to gel and be put together next year,” said Troup head coach Craig Garner, whose team finished second in Region 5-AAAA last season before falling in the first round of the state playoffs. “It gives us an idea, as coaches, what pieces of the puzzle are in place, and where we’re going to have to take some out and make them fit somewhere else. It gives us a chance to formulate a plan for next year.”
While some of Troup’s veteran varsity players were on the field on Tuesday, there were plenty of newcomers as well.
One of the players Garner was anxious to see in action was pitcher Rocky Pemberton, who threw one inning.
“We go into the bottom of the fifth, and we’re throwing a kid that probably didn’t throw five innings all year in ninth grade,” Garner said of Pemberton. “But, I think he’s going to be pretty special.”
Since it’s summer and the score doesn’t matter, Garner was committed to letting Pemberton throw an inning, no matter what happened.
“He came out and struggled, and walked the first two batters, but we said then, rather he goes three up and three down, or if it takes him 50 pitches and gives up six runs, he’s throwing this inning,” Garner said.
The summer is valuable for some of the experienced players as well since they get to experiment with different positions.
Caleb McCurry, Troup’s first baseman last season, played first base, third base, catcher, and he pitched the final inning of the second game.
Callaway is coming off an exceptional season that ended with a hard-fought loss to Rockmart in the semifinals of the Class AA state playoffs.
Many of the players who’ll likely start next season weren’t there on Tuesday, and Hubbard is OK with that.
“Most of these were our young guys,” Hubbard said. “Our older guys are playing for other teams, or they’re in the weight room, or at camps. And I’m fine with that. If they’re here, let’s play. If not, go do what you’re doing.”
Hubbard added that “the whole purpose is to get better, and get them reps.”
Tuesday’s games included rising seniors who’ve been playing varsity baseball for years, as well as incoming eighth-graders who’ll be playing on the junior-varsity team next spring.
One of those soon-to-be eighth graders was coach Hubbard’s son Bryce Hubbard, who was the starting pitcher in game two.
“Now, when they step out there as an eighth-grader next year in junior varsity, they won’t be as nervous,” Hubbard said. “They get some of that out of the way.”
While Callaway lost many of its position players from last year’s team, most of the pitchers will return, including Justin Moore and Dawson Wright, who were the top two starters.
Hubbard is hopeful that Wesley Marchman, who was an ace in 2018 but was unable to pitch this season because of an arm injury, will return next season to bolster an already strong staff.
“I think it’s got a chance to be pretty good, especially if we get Wesley back,” Hubbard said. “He’s rehabbing hard, trying to get it back. He’s doing physical therapy about four times a week. They’ve got him shut down for another two or three months. They’re just taking it slow, making sure he’s where he needs to be.”
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