Callaway sweeps Haralson County
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
It was a winning road trip for the Callaway Cavaliers, who took care of business against the Haralson County Rebels on Wednesday.
The games were supposed to be played on Friday, but the decision was made to move things up two days because of the threat of rain.
Callaway (15-6 overall), which rallied to beat Haralson County 5-2 at home on Tuesday, won Wednesday’s doubleheader by scores of 12-3 and 5-2 to improve to 7-3 in Region 5-AA.
Callaway completes its region schedule with two games against Heard County on April 20.
Bremen has a lock on the top spot in the region with an 8-1 record, while Callaway is in solid position to finish second and secure a home series in the state playoffs.
One of the stars for Callaway on Wednesday was junior Nate Lee, who had three hits and three RBIs in the two games combined.
Lee has had his struggles this season, but head coach Dusty Hubbard felt the time was right to get him in the lineup, and that decision paid dividends.
In the first game, Lee had two hits with a double and an RBI as Callaway won 12-3, and he had a two-run single during a five-run sixth inning in game two.
“I’m so proud of Nate,” Hubbard said. “He struggled early on. He started out the year being a starter for the first three or four games, and he struggled just making contact. We started working on some things with him, and getting him some at-bats here and there. I felt like last night with what he’d been doing in the cages in (batting practice) that he was ready. He came in and had three hits in the doubleheader.”
Through it all, Hubbard said Lee has been “a great teammate. He didn’t sulk when he didn’t play, didn’t get down. He kept doing what we asked him to do, and I was proud for him.”
Another player who came through on Wednesday was Jimmie Dukes, who got the start on the pitcher’s mound in game two.
Dukes was dominant, holding Haralson County to no runs on one hit while striking out five batters.
Dukes has been used out of the bullpen a few games this season, and Hubbard decided to give him a chance to start.
“I talked to coach (John) Hopper about it on the way down here,” Hubbard said. “I said if we win game two, I said I want to start Dukes in game three, because we need to stretch him out for the playoffs. We know Dukes is so talented, and we’ve stretched him out to about 45 pitches (in practice), but we felt like we needed to do it on a live mound. He went out there and gave us four really good innings.”
Another standout performer on Wednesday was Brantin Swanson, who pitched one scoreless innings in both games.
Swanson had knee surgery in November, and he was cleared to begin pitching in March, and the left-hander has been effective in three games since his return.
“The fortunate thing was, it was a leg injury, so he was able to throw,” Hubbard said. “His arm’s in pretty good shape. He still can’t hit and run bases, but they cleared him to pitch, so we’ve used him. We used him up at Bremen in the first game, and he threw an inning in both games last night. With him being left-handed, and just giving a different look, and he’s a strike thrower. He did a good job last night.”
At the time of the surgery, it didn’t appear likely that Swanson would be able to play this spring, but he defied the odds.
“They said it could be six to eight months, and you’re looking at a guy who’s back pitching in four,” Hubbard said. “He’s done great with his rehab and strengthening his leg. It’s just his desire to one to get back out here.”
In Wednesday’s opener, the Cavaliers had one of their best offensive outings of the season.
Callaway banged out 14 hits, and nine different players had at least one hit.
Andrew Locke did a lot of the damage with four hits including a double, and Lee had two hits with an RBI and two runs scored.
Dukes had two hits and an RBI, Tucker Starling had a double and two RBIs, CJ Stephens and had a hit and two RBIs, Justin Moore and Kaden Rogers each had a hit and an RBI, Eli Freeman had two RBIs, and Bryce Hubbard and Blake Sheppard each had a hit.
Starling was Callaway’s starting pitcher, and he pitched five innings, giving up one earned run on three hits while striking out seven.
Swanson and Garrett Huckleberry each pitched a scoreless inning to finish things off.
In the second game, it was scoreless until Callaway busted things open with five runs in the top of the sixth inning.
After Freeman walked and Stephens reached on a single, Hubbard got the Cavaliers on the board with a two-run double.
Later in the inning, after Moore and Sheppard walked, Lee stepped to the plate with two outs and the bases loaded and came through with a two-run single.
“Nate had a great at-bat,” Hubbard said. “It was 3-2 and he fouled off some pitches and then he got a single and scored both of them.”
While the Cavaliers were limited to four hits in game two, Hubbard was pleased with the offensive effort in the doubleheader.
“The whole day offensively, I thought we had good at-bats,” Hubbard said. “Even in the second game, we hit the ball, we just hit it at them. Our at-bats were much crisper. We were barreling up more balls than we have in the past, and that was good to see.”
After Dukes and Swanson combined for five scoreless innings in game two, Stephens didn’t give up any runs in the sixth inning.
Stephens ran into trouble in the bottom of the seventh and gave up three runs, and Haralson County had a runner on second when Hubbard came into the game and got a strikeout to end it.
Callaway, before closing out its region schedule with the two games against Heard County, will play LaGrange and Glenwood on the road next week.
While the LaGrange game won’t impact Callaway’s position in the region, it’s still a high-profile game, and Hubbard is looking forward to it.
“We just want to see the guys compete, and it’s good to see how the guys handle pressure,” Hubbard said. “It doesn’t matter as far as the standings, but there’