Cavaliers blank Tigers
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
A lock-down pitching performance by Tucker Starling helped the Callaway Cavaliers secure a rivalry win over the visiting Troup Tigers on Saturday.
Starling, a sophomore who has stepped up to become a key member of the pitching staff this season, threw 5 1/3 scoreless innings as Callaway blanked Troup 5-0.
Coming into the season head coach Dusty Hubbard knew he had two reliable and experienced starting pitchers in Justin Moore and Dawson Wright, with senior Wesley Marchman possibly returning to the mound at some point during the spring.
Knowing there was the possibility of earning a spot in the rotation, Starling set out to make that a reality.
“This summer, I made a list of goals I wanted to achieve my sophomore, junior and senior years,” Starling said. “One of them for my sophomore year was to be a third-game starter. Wesley is a really good pitcher, and if he couldn’t pitch this year, I wanted to be that third-game starter.”
If Saturday’s performance is an indication, Starling could be in the rotation to stay.
During his 5 1/3 superb innings, Starling held Troup to five hits with one walk while striking out three.
“He did a really good job of pitching to contact,” Hubbard said. “We’re excited about what he’s giving us right now on the mound. That was as good as we can ask for. He did a really good job.”
Wright, who did a terrific job of getting out of trouble in the sixth inning after coming into the game with two men on and one out, recorded the game’s final four outs without giving up a hit to preserve the shutout.
Both pitchers were aided by an infield defense that was outstanding.
Marchman was flawless at shortstop while making some plays that belong on a highlight reel, and Moore got the job done at third base.
Wright started at second base, and Starling moved to that position later in the game.
“Me being the pitcher I am, I don’t strike out a lot (of batters), and I get a lot of groundballs,” Starling said. “Knowing that I have a defense behind me that will make the plays, it doesn’t put the pressure on me knowing I’ve got to strike somebody out.”
The Cavaliers did most of their offensive damage in the first inning with four runs, and they added a single run in the third inning.
After the difficult first inning, Troup pitchers Daniel Martin and Colton Webb combined to allow one run and three hits over the next five innings.
While the Tigers had some scoring opportunities in the game, they were unable to break through against Starling or Wright.
“They played really well. You tip your hat,” Troup head coach Craig Garner said. “I felt like we hit the ball at times, but they made some plays. They made the routine plays, and unfortunately we made several errors, and it cost us. We got down early, and I felt like we started pressing at that point. It was one of those days where you felt like nothing was going to go right.”
C.J. Stephens reached on an error to get the first-inning rally started, and after a Moore base hit, Marchman walked to load the bases.
Luke Swann followed with an RBI single to plate the game’s first run, and another run scored when Jabari Smith was hit by a pitch with the bases full.
Troup pitcher Carson Garner got Kaden Rogers to ground into a double play, but Marchman scored on the play to make it a 3-0 game.
Courtesy-runner Adam Locke later raced home on a passed ball to score the inning’s fourth and final run.
The Cavaliers completed the scoring with a single run in the bottom of the third inning.
Rogers got things started with a one-out single, and he later scored on a Will Cavender base hit.
Moore, Swann, Smith, Rogers and Cavender each had hits for Callaway, and Jimmy Dukes walked twice.
For Troup, Luke Purnell had three hits with a double, and Ethan Morton, Cole Garner and Devon Murphy each had a hit.
While Troup lost to Valley 6-2 in a road game on Monday, Callaway will continue its Region 5-AA schedule on Tuesday against Bremen.
They’ll play a single game on Tuesday at Bremen, and Callaway will host a doubleheader on Friday.