It’s not supposed to be this easy.
Not at this time of year, not when only the state’s best teams are still standing.
For the Callaway Cavaliers, though, it has been a remarkably smooth ride through the first two rounds of the Class AAA state playoffs.
In the first round, Callaway beat Central-Macon 10-0 and 15-0, but that was against an overmatched team with a losing record.
The task figured to be much more difficult in the second round against an Appling County team finished second in its region, was coming off a big series win over Dodge County, and won a state championship just two years ago.
It may have been a superior opponent to Central-Macon, but the result was exactly the same.
In Wednesday’s series opener, freshman Dylan Johnson hit a two-run home run in the fifth inning to put the wraps on a 10-0 victory.
Callaway finished off the sweep with a 15-0 win to advance to the quarterfinals of the Class AAA state playoffs against Cartersville.
“I want them to enjoy it. They know, and we know there are eight teams left,” Callaway coach Dusty Hubbard said. “We don’t know who they are at this point, but we know we’re one of them. That’s a good feeling.”
Appling County had no chance.
The pitching for Callaway was once again superb, with Perry Keith and Nick O’Berry combining for nine shutout innings.
Both games were cut short because of the run rule.
In Game 1, Keith threw five scoreless innings, and O’Berry allowed just one hit in four innings in Game 2.
“If you don’t let anybody score, you’ve got a good chance to win,” Hubbard said. “And so far, we haven’t allowed anybody to score.”
The Cavaliers, meanwhile, aren’t having any problems scoring runs.
Everyone in the lineup is contributing to the onslaught.
“Everybody’s getting hot at the right time,” junior infielder Cody Mimbs said.
Here’s a recap of both games in the Appling County series.
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It was more of the same for Perry Keith.
The junior right-handed pitcher improved to 7-1, and he lowered an earned run average that was at 1.40 coming into the game.
The game was scoreless through two innings, but the Cavaliers broke through for six runs in the bottom of the third.
Keith led off with a single, Dylan Johnson reached on an error, and Nick O’Berry had a base hit to load the bases.
Austin Garrett walked to drive in the game’s first run, and Cody Mimbs followed with a two-run single, and the Cavaliers were up 3-0.
Chase Freeman added an RBI single of his own to push the lead to 4-0, and with two outs, Cortney Laye reached on a fielder’s choice to make it a 5-0 game.
With a runner on third, Terry Godwin put down a well-placed bunt to bring in the inning’s sixth and final run.
Armed with a six-run lead, Keith knew he had a margin for error.
“It helps a lot,” Keith said of having a big lead. “When your team is winning, you have a lot more confidence as a pitcher. You can throw a pitch whenever you want to.”
The Cavaliers gave Keith two more runs to play with in the fourth inning.
Johnson got things started with a single, and after an O’Berry walk, Garrett’s base hit gave Callaway a 7-0 lead.
After Mimbs was hit by a pitch, Freeman’s RBI single put Callaway on top 8-0.
Callaway finished things off with a pair of runs in the fifth inning, with Johnson doing the honors.
Keith reached on a single with one out, and Johnson followed with a two-run home run that ended it.
“That was a great job from a freshman right there. That was a big hit,” Hubbard said. “You never know what can happen. I told them, we’ve got to close these guys out.”
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Any hope Appling County had of getting a win in Game 2 was erased when Callaway sent 15 batters to the plate in the second inning and scored 10 runs.
The Cavaliers added four more runs in the third inning, and they capped the scoring with one run in the fourth inning.
That was plenty of support for Nick O’Berry, who gave up just one hit in his four innings on the mound.
O’Berry said that even though the Cavaliers had the game well in hand, they kept pushing and didn’t let the Pirates have any hope.
“We couldn’t let them have momentum, even up by 14,” O’Berry said. “In the playoffs, momentum is a big thing.”
After a scoreless first inning, Callaway seized that momentum in the top of the second inning, and it never gave it back.
Kevin Craft began the second-inning onslaught with a double, and Terry Godwin was hit by a pitch.
The next two Callaway batters struck out, and O’Berry was hit by a pitch to load the bases.
And then for the second straight game, the first run came across when Austin Garrett walked with the bases loaded.
With the bases still full, Mimbs also walked to make it 2-0, and Chase Freeman legged out an infield single, with two runs scoring on the play.
Two batters later, Craft walked with the bases loaded, and it was 5-0.
That brought Godwin to the plate with the bags still full, and on a 3-1 count, he drove the ball to the center-field fence for a three-run double, and Callaway led 8-0.
Perry Keith kept the offensive barrage going with an RBI double, and the inning’s 10th and final run scored when Dylan Johnson reached on an error.
After Appling County went down in order in the bottom of the second inning, Callaway padded its lead with three runs in the top of the third.
With one out, Freeman reached on a single, and he ended up scoring on an error.
C.J. Gallatin walked for the second time in the game, Craft reached on a single, and Keith was hit by a pitch, setting up a two-run single by Johnson.
Another run scored on an error, and Callaway was up 14-0.
After right fielder Mason Hendrix made a nice running catch to end the bottom of the third inning, Callaway pushed the final run across in the top of the fourth.
Noah Hammett was hit by a pitch, and he eventually scored on a wild pitch.
O’Berry struck out the side in the bottom of the fourth, and that was that.