2022 season preview: Callaway softball looks to take another step forward in year 2 under Josh King
Published 8:15 am Saturday, July 30, 2022
The Callaway softball team is looking to take another step forward in Josh King’s second year as head coach. The Cavaliers finished third in their region last year to book a spot in the AA state playoffs, but fell to Dade County in the first round.
“The last two years in our region have been tough,” King said. “Bremen won the region and Heard County went on to win the state championship.”
Callaway will be entering a new region this season. The region might not be quite as strong as the one they were in last season, but the Cavaliers are in a larger region so there will be more teams vying for the same amount of playoff positions. Callaway will still be challenged in their region as Eagle’s Landing Christian Academy finished third in private A last season. Callaway kept Bremen and Heard County on the schedule despite no longer being in the region to challenge the girls against some of the best teams in AA.
“I made sure to keep Bremen and Heard County on our non-region schedule,” King said. “They are tough teams, and I want to play tough competition because that’s how you get ready for the playoffs.”
It is an uphill battle, but King has eyes on capturing a region title this year. With his and his team chemistry strengthened after his first year in charge last season King believes the team has what it takes.
“No. 1 I want them to go out there and compete hard,” King said. “But, a region championship is something we could be proud of and that would be huge for this program taking the next step forward.”
Ava Shuford, a junior, started at first base last season and will likely start there again this year. Shuford is one of the best returning batters as she hit .235 last season with five RBIs.
“She’s a versatile player for us,” King said. “She could see some time at third base too.”
Madison Kemp was an all-region utility player during her freshman year last season where she hit .233 with 8 RBIs and provided quality defense in a multitude of positions.
“She’s played just about every position for us besides pitcher and catcher,” King said.
Jaylon “Mac” Rhodes, a senior, will likely get the start at second base or shortstop after she started much of last season as the team’s second baseman. Rhodes drove in eight runs last season which is second on the team amongst players returning to the fold.
“She could potentially move over to shortstop this season because of her knowledge of the game,” King said.
The shortstop position is a question mark after the Cavaliers saw the departure of Chaple Butler (graduation) who played shortstop and led the team with a .344 batting average and tied for the team lead with 16 RBIs.
Another couple names in the mix for the infield positions are sophomores Jasia Swanson and Kaitlyn Williams. Swanson is an athlete that possesses rare speed that might see her play some in the outfield as well. Williams is also a pitcher so she will likely not be an every game starter in the infield.
It will be a new era for the catching position as the Cavaliers will no longer be able to call upon Alora Vetsavong, who held down the position and was one of the team’s best offensive players last season as she hit .318 and tied for the team lead with 16 RBIs.
It will likely be sophomore Karlie Walker who steps up to fill the void left by Vetsavong.
“She’s probably our primary catcher at this point, but Kaitlyn Williams is a player who could see some time there too,” King said. “She’s been working on some catching and has looked pretty good back there, but so does Karlie.”
Mya Lawton remains the crown jewel of the Cavaliers’ pitching after being the no. 1 starter last year as a junior. Lawton is the team’s most accomplished player as she put in work from the plate as well. Among returning players she led the team in batting average (.338), hits (22), and RBIs (14).
“We had one pitcher last year that was locked in and that was Mya Lawton, but this year we are going to get her some help,” King said.
Lawton will be joined in the rotation by talented freshman Mckenzie Toney.
“In terms of being a hard worker, I would put her up against anybody,” King said.
Williams will also see some time at pitcher as well even though she will find herself starting in the infield more frequently.
“Those three girls are who we are going to lean on right now,” King said. “They may start, or they may come in relief, it just depends on the situation.”
Emma Bryan was the team’s primary center fielder last year and looks to resume her spot there as a senior. Bryan offers a lot of range defensively and provided some quality offense as a junior.
Joining her in the outfield will be Mya Lawton, who will be deployed as a pitcher frequently but will see time in the outfield as well when she is not pitching.
“She’s been an all-region outfielder for us the last two years,” King said. “She’s going to get to see a lot more outfield time this year.”
Constance Hall will start in the outfield as well as the team will have a senior laden outfield when Lawton plays in her primary position in the outfield. Hall played sparingly as a junior but looks to make a big impact as a starter in her senior season.
The sophomore Swanson will figure into the picture in the outfield as well, especially when Lawton finds herself on the pitching mound.