Lock-down pitching powers Cavaliers
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
ROANOKE, Ala. – Since Callaway’s Justin Moore arrived on the scene as a freshman, he’s been handcuffing opposing batters.
So it was no surprise to see Moore, a hard-throwing junior right-hander, have his way with Handley’s hitters during Tuesday’s 9-0 victory in Alabama.
Moore limited Handley to one hit during his five innings on the mound, and Jimmie Dukes and Tucker Starling went the rest of the way as Callaway (9-3) earned its first shutout win of the season.
As a freshman, Moore was one of the top pitchers on a Callaway team that reached the state semifinals in 2019, and he was the staff ace during a 2020 season that was cut short because of COVID-19.
Moore is being counted on to lead the rotation this season, and he has been up to the challenge.
Even when the Cavaliers have lost with Moore on the mound, he has pitched well enough to keep his team in the game.
“He’s a heck of a competitor,” said Callaway head coach Dusty Hubbard. “That’s what I like about him the most. Even if he doesn’t have his best stuff, he’ll figure out how to get guys out. He’s done a great job, and coach (Jonathan Hopper) has done a great job with him of developing some more pitches, and doing a really good job. I’m proud of him. I’m proud of the way he competes.”
For his part, on the trip to Roanoke, Moore had a feeling it was going to be a good day.
“I felt like on the bus ride over I had my mind right, and I felt like I was in it today,” Moore said.
Through the first three innings, Moore and Whaley were locked in a scoreless pitcher’s duel.
That changed in the top of the fourth inning, with the Cavaliers pushing four runs across to take control of the game.
The Cavaliers did it with small ball.
Both of the hits in the inning came on bunts, and there was also a walk, a hit batter, and a sacrifice fly thrown into the mix.
The bunt proved to be a valuable weapon throughout the game, which pleased Hubbard.
“I thought we did a really good job of bunting the baseball,” Hubbard said. “We had four or five bunt hits. We did a good job of that, and that’s something we’ve got to be good at, to be good.”
The Cavaliers expanded their lead with two runs in the fifth inning, and they capped the scoring with three runs in the top of the seventh.
Kaden Rogers had a big day for the Cavaliers with three hits, including two RBI hits, and he scored three runs.
Starling had two of the Cavaliers’ eight hits, and he also walked and scored three runs.
Andrew Locke had two hits and an RBI, and Will Cavender had one of Callaway’s bunt singles.
On the mound, Dukes held Handley to one hit during his 1 1/3 innings, and Starling only needed five pitches to record the final two outs.
Dukes was helped out by an inning-ending double play in the bottom of the sixth.
Starling was coming off a stellar performance in a 3-2 victory over Jeff Davis on Saturday, and Hubbard believed would be valuable to get him in the game since Callaway doesn’t play again this week.
“We don’t play for a week, so we felt like bringing Tucker in would be kind of like throwing in the bullpen,” Hubbard said.
With Moore and Starling filling the top two spots in the rotation and with a handful of other pitchers throwing well, the Cavaliers appear well-positioned as they look ahead to the start of Region 5-AA competition next week.
“Region is going to be tough, and I feel like our staff is going to be really good during region play,” Moore said.
In Tuesday’s game, Moore and the other pitchers got all the offensive support they’d need in the fourth inning.
The four-run rally began with a Starling walk, and after Moore was hit by a pitch, Rogers reached on a bunt single to load the bases.
Next up was Blake Sheppard, and his sacrifice fly brought in Starling with the game’s first run.
Later in the inning, after Rogers came home on a wild pitch, two more runs scored when Eli Freeman reached on an infield error.
The Cavaliers padded their lead with two runs in the fifth inning.
Once again Starling started the rally, this time with a bunt hit, and he moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Moore.
Next to the plate was Rogers, whose RBI double made it a 5-0 game, and two batters later, Locke ripped the ball to center field for a run-scoring single, and Callaway led 6-0.
Callaway took advantage of a hit by Rogers, and a defensive lapse by Handley, to plate three more runs in the top of the seventh.
Starling led off with a single, and Dukes was hit by a pitch, bringing Rogers to the plate.
Rogers delivered his third hit of the game bringing Starling home, and thanks to a bad throw, courtesy runner Javontay Boddie scored, and Rogers came all the way around to score as well, giving Callaway a 9-0 lead.