• 63°

Callaway looking forward to complete season

By the high standards of the Callaway High baseball program the record wasn’t where it needed to be, but head coach Dusty Hubbard felt like everything was trending in the right direction.

After a home loss to LaGrange last March, Callaway was 5-8 overall, but it was 2-1 in Region 5-AA and getting ready for a key Friday doubleheader against region rival Bremen.

“I really thought we were about to hit our stride,” said Dusty Hubbard, who is in his 16th season as Callaway’s head baseball coach. “I knew we’d struggle early because of the new guys playing, but that’s the way it went. I liked the way we were playing, it just wasn’t meant to be.”

Two days after Callaway played LaGrange, all sports events in Troup County were postponed because of concerns over COVID-19, and later in the spring the decision was made to cancel the remainder of the spring sports seasons.

While COVID-19 is still an unfortunate reality, the Georgia High School Association made the decision during the summer to go ahead with sports during the 2020-2021 school  year, and while the fall seasons were played to completion, the winter sports teams are in the midst of their seasons.

Up next are the spring sports, and last week, Callaway’s baseball players and coaches hit the field for the start of official preseason practice.

Callaway has a preseason game against Northgate on Feb. 12, and it will open the regular season on Feb. 15 with a home game against Lafayette Christian.

So far, Hubbard said preparation for a new season has been going well.

“We did deal with some weather, but we also had three or four really nice days,” Hubbard said, reflecting on the first full week of practice. “It was good, and I think we’re getting better. We’ve dealt with some guys not being here. We’ve had a couple of injuries, and sickness, but the guys are working hard. I’m seeing a big difference from last week to this week, just knowing what’s going on. So we’re progressing. We’re getting there. I just hope that we can keep getting good weather, and get them out here, and get everything in we need to get in by the time we start playing.”

Hubbard and his assistant coaches have stressed to every player in the program the importance of being ready to perform if called upon.

Because of quarantine procedures related to COVID-19, there is always the possibility that players won’t be available for extended stretches.

That means that players who normally would likely be limited to junior-varsity baseball may get their opportunity to play for the varsity team.

“We had five guys not here today. I told them, this is the way it can be,” Hubbard said after Tuesday’s practice. “We had ninth graders out there, and some guys in other positions. That’s the reality of what we’re doing. We have to prepare them. We’re coaching them all hard. We’re staying together a lot more, too, just as far as our varsity and our junior varsity just so if something does happen, those guys are familiar with our system and what we’re doing.”

Every player on the team, Hubbard said, is “going to work hard, and they’re going to prepare, and we’re going to try to have them all prepared to at least get out there and function. Of course the ability level is different with different guys, but as long as they know what to do and know how to get after it, we’ll go play.”

The standard, as is always the case at Callaway, is a high one.

The Cavaliers have been one of the state’s most successful teams with Hubbard at the helm, and they made back-to-back appearances in the state semifinals in 2018 and 2019.

hile the Cavaliers will need to replace some talented seniors from last year’s team, a gifted group of underclassmen will lead the way, including junior Justin Moore, who was one of the team’s top pitchers during the semifinal run in 2019.

Moore and the Cavaliers will play in a region that includes four other capable teams, so it won’t be an easy road.

“Haralson is in the top 10, and Bremen, they lost a little bit, but they’ll be good,” Hubbard said. “Heard will be good, and Temple will be a lot better. It’s going to be a good region.

“We just have to do the best we can these first three or four weeks and getting better for once the season starts.”

Callaway will play 11 games before beginning its region schedule against Temple on March 16.

“Those non-region games, what they’re for is to get the guys better,” Hubbard said.