Another game three for Callaway
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
HAZLEHURST – Here we go again.
For the third consecutive playoff series, the Callaway Cavaliers are facing a winner-take-all game three.
In the second round, Callaway rallied from three runs down in the final inning to beat Pepperell 7-6 to advance to the final eight.
In a third-round series, Callaway lost to Thomasville 6-0 in game three, but it ended up winning by forfeit after a Thomasville player threw more pitches than is allowed.
On Monday, Callaway split a doubleheader with Jeff Davis in the semifinals of the Class AA state playoffs, paving the way for another game three, this one with spot in the state-championship series on the line.
Callaway won the first game 4-0 behind the brilliant pitching of Tucker Starling, who was backed up by an outstanding defense.
In game two, Jeff Davis jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first inning, and it went on to capture a 3-0 victory to even the series.
While the Cavaliers obviously would have preferred to finish things off and avoid a game three, they’re still playing, and that’s a position a lot of teams in the state would love to be in.
While the Cavaliers have made repeated trips to the semifinals over the years, they’re trying to get to the state-championship series for the first time.
“If anybody would have said before the season you’ve got one game to win to go to the championship, I think we would have taken it and run with it,” said Callaway head coach Dusty Hubbard.
In game one, Starling was fantastic.
The junior right-hander threw a complete-game four-hitter with six strikeouts, and he was helped out by two double plays.
The Cavaliers scored all four of their runs in the sixth inning on RBI hits by Justin Moore and Kaden Rogers, and another run scored on a successful squeeze bunt by Andrew Locke.
The Cavaliers had their chances in game two, but they were unable to come through with a timely hit.
Justin Moore pitched five strong innings in game two and was the tough-luck loser, and Garrett Huckleberry and CJ Stephens each pitched one shutout inning.
“We hung around long enough to get some timely hits (in game one),” Hubbard said. “That’s what we were trying to do in the second game. We couldn’t get those timely hits.”
In the first game, Starling and Jeff Davis’ Matthew White were locked in a pitcher’s duel through five innings.
Finally, in the sixth inning, the Cavaliers broke through.
Stephens reached on an error leading off, Bryce Hubbard walked, and Starling singled to load the bases.
Next up was Moore, and he ripped the ball into the outfield for an RBI single, and the Cavaliers had the lead.
Locke then flawlessly executed a suicide squeeze bunt, and Hubbard raced home with the second run.
Rogers followed with a two-run double, and the Cavaliers had a 4-0 lead.
That was plenty of support for Starling, who was in control from the get-go.
Starling was helped out by double plays in the fourth and sixth innings, and he ended the game in style with a strikeout with two runners on in the bottom of the seventh.
Stephens, Starling, Moore, Locke and Rogers had Callaway’s five hits.
In the second game, it was Jeff Davis surging to a 2-0 lead after the first inning, and it added a single run in the third inning to take a 3-0 lead.
Callaway had some defensive miscues on bunt attempts that helped Thomasville take the lead.
“What’s hurt us the last two series is the first inning,” Hubbard said. “In game two, we gave up three against Thomasville, and we gave up two tonight. Defensively, we just didn’t make the plays. I thought we made the right decisions, we just didn’t execute.”
After a tough start to the game, Moore, Huckleberry and Stephens combined for five shutout innings.
In the fourth inning, Rogers made a terrific scoop on a one-hop throw at first base for an out, and Starling made an outstanding play at shortstop for the third out of the inning.
The Cavaliers provided another defensive highlight in the fifth inning when left fielder Jimmie Dukes made a running catch for the first out.
In the sixth inning, Stephens threw a runner out at third base from left field to thwart a potential rally.
Offensively, Callaway’s best scoring chance came in the first inning when it loaded the bases.
Stephens, Moore and Locke each singled, but Jeff Davis pitcher Cole Baucom ended the inning with a strikeout, leaving three Callaway runners on base.
The Cavaliers threatened again in the fifth inning when Nate Lee and Rogers led off with base hits, but once against Baucom pitched his way out of trouble.
The Cavaliers had base runners in the sixth and seventh innings, but they were unable to break through.
Stephens had three hits from the leadoff position for the Cavaliers, and Jacob Miles, Moore, Locke, and Rogers also had hits.
On the mound, Moore pitched five innings and gave up four hits and two earned runs with three strikeouts.
Huckleberry gave up one hit in a scoreless sixth inning, and Stephens held Jeff Davis scoreless and hitless in the seventh inning.
For Jeff Davis, Baucom worked out nine hits to hold Callaway scoreless in 6 1/3 innings, and he had nine strikeouts.
Alex Mason got