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All Cavaliers do is win

By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY

Daily News

For the Callaway High baseball program, the expectations are high.

While the Cavaliers have yet to win a state championship, they have been a consistent powerhouse, routinely making deep runs in the state tournament.

Regardless of the turnover on the roster, the Cavaliers come into each season fully expecting to find success, and they have done that consistently under head coach Dusty Hubbard.

“It’s a lot of buy-in from the players, and getting the most out of their ability, and playing well in some big moments,” said Hubbard, who won his 300th game as Callaway’s head coach during the playoffs last season. “Looking back over those years we’ve had players that their sole focus was to do whatever we asked them to do, to win baseball games. You get a bunch of guys doing that, then you’ve got a chance to be pretty competitive.”

Hubbard credits the players over the years for doing what’s necessary to be successful.

“It says a lot about our coaching staff, but it also says a lot about our kids, the time that they put in, and everything that they go through in order to be successful,” Hubbard said.

The Cavaliers have won at least one series in the state playoffs for eight consecutive years after losing to the Coosa Eagles in a first-round matchup in 2011.

Since the start of the 2012 season, the Cavaliers have made two trips to the state semifinals, they’ve been to the quarterfinals on three other occasions, and three times they’ve been knocked out in the second round.

“You always want kids that will work hard, and do what you ask them to do,” said Hubbard, who is also the defensive coordinator on the football team. “You always want them to be able to get the benefits of the work they put in, and I think being able to play in games where the atmosphere is unreal, and they get a chance to see the stands filled and people standing on the side of the fences and all that, it makes it worthwhile. That’s the stuff they remember forever.”

After getting knocked out in the first round in 2011, Callaway made it to the third round in 2012 before losing a hard-fought series to Brantley County.

Callaway advanced to the second round of the 2013 state playoffs before losing to Dodge County, and it fell to Cartersville in a third-round series in 2014.

Callaway made another third-round appearance in 2015 where it lost to Jefferson, and the 2016 and 2017 seasons ended with second-round losses to Blessed Trinity and Dodge County, respectively.

The 2018 season was one of the finest in the history of the program.

Callaway, after winning a region championship, beat B.E.S.T. Academy, Rabun County and Thomasville to reach the state semifinals for the second time in the history of the program.

In the quarterfinals, Callaway bounced back from an opening loss to beat a Thomasville team that was ranked first in Class AA.

In the semifinals against eventual state-champion Benedictine, Callaway won the first game 10-0 before dropping the next two games.

The Cavaliers made another championship run in 2019, making a second straight appearance in the semifinals.

Callaway beat Banks County, Model and Bacon County to reach the semifinals where it lost a heart-breaking series to Rockmart.

After the teams split the first two games of the series, Callaway had the lead in the seventh inning of game three before Rockmart rallied for a 7-5 win.

“You look back, and they’ll carry those memories on, and when they see each other 10, 15 years down the road, that’s exactly what they’ll talk about,” Hubbard said. “And that’s why you do it, and building those relationships along the way, and teaching those guys that hard work will get you where you want to go. Not only hard work, but just being consistent day in and day out in whatever you do. I think that’s a big part of the success that we’ve been able to have.”

Everything hasn’t always gone smoothly for the Cavaliers over the years, but they always seem to put it together when the games mean the most.

“There are times, looking back over the years even during a particular season where I didn’t know if this team will ever get there,” Hubbard said. “You keep plugging, and then finally a switch gets flipped, and things turn around, and they start to play for each other instead of for themselves, and it ends up going a long way.”

Hubbard was confident this season’s team would have put things together as well.

Callaway was preparing for a key home doubleheader against Bremen when the season was suspended, and it was later canceled.

With senior Wesley Marchman preparing to return to the mound after not pitching since the 2018 season, the Cavaliers’ prospects appeared bright.

“We were starting to get Wesley back healthy and ready to throw off the mound, and our other pitchers were starting to show some maturity, and we were starting to find our identity as a team,” Hubbard said. “Going into the doubleheader we were supposed to play at home against Bremen, I felt good about it. I was feeling good about it, and then all this happened. I really believe this group was getting ready to take off a little bit.”