HOGANSVILLE – Callaway baseball coach Dusty Hubbard knew what was on the line.
The Cavaliers came into Wednesday’s home game with the Cedartown Bulldogs with their region-championship hopes still alive.
Despite the importance of the game, though, Hubbard wasn’t going to get away from a senior-day tradition the program has established.
During the team’s final home game each season, the seniors are given a chance to be in the starting lineup, no matter what their role is on the team, whether they’re a starter or a rarely-used reserve.
So as the Cavaliers trotted onto the field for the start of Wednesday’s games, it was a senior-laden lineup, with a handful of players whose roles have been limited this season getting a chance to start.
“Usually we do a little better job of scheduling and have a non-region game,” Hubbard said. “But it just wasn’t the way it fell this year. And we weren’t going to change what we did. We thought about it, and I said we’re not going to change. They deserve it. They work hard.”
Unfortunately for the Cavaliers, the game didn’t go their way.
Cedartown blew it open early and rolled to a 15-0 victory to clinch the Region 5-AAA title, while Callaway will be either the region’s second or third when the playoffs begin.
Callaway will visit Cedartown for a doubleheader on Friday as it wraps up its region schedule.
Even after the blowout loss, Hubbard said he had no regrets about sticking with the tradition and rewarding the seniors with a start.
“I believe that our seniors, this group right here, they all deserved the right to start a game tonight, and that’s what we did,” Hubbard said. “These guys have done every bit that we asked them to do in order to play, and to do the things we ask them to do, and I’m proud of those guys.”
Hubbard also felt that it likely wouldn’t have made a difference who was playing on Wednesday.
“I don’t think it would have matter today. It was their day,” Hubbard said. “They hit everything, and we walked guys. We just didn’t do a whole lot of good things. But hopefully we can bounce back and fight like heck (on Friday). We’ll try to clean some things up in the days we’ve got before we play, and go make a push in the playoffs.”
For Cedartown, it has been a tremendous season.
Under head coach Doyle Kelley, the Bulldogs improved to 20-3, and with an 11-2 region record, they’re three games clear of second-place Rockmart, so they’ve got first place wrapped up no matter what happens on Friday.
“They knew what was at stake,” Kelley said of his players. “They knew we had to win one game against Callaway. And they’re a great team. They do a great job here. They’re a good ballclub. Our kids knew they needed to win, and we wanted to do it and not come back for that doubleheader having to win. Everything went our way today.”
The Cavaliers came into the season having won two consecutive region titles, and even though they failed to make it a three-peat, it has still been another successful season.
“I don’t want to take anything away from them,” Kelley said of the Cavaliers. “They’ve got a class program. And they’ll be in the playoffs.”
The Bulldogs took control early with three runs in the top of the first inning, and they were up 5-0 through two innings.
Callaway threatened to get back into it in the bottom of the second inning.
Cortney Laye doubled, Xavier Smith was hit by a pitch, Ryan Clay singled, and the Cavaliers had the bases loaded with one out.
Callaway was unable to push a run across, though, and Cedartown busted it open with five runs in the third inning.
Cedartown added five runs over the course of the next two innings, and the game ended after five innings because of the run rule.
Brayden McCollum hit a three-run home run for Cedartown, and Zeke Cofield had a two-run homer.
CALLAWAY SENIORS: Xavier Smith, Devin Brock, Ty McCann, Jordan Bonner, Brandon Boddie, Cortney Laye, Ryan Clay, Javoski Leverette, Dre Martin and Hunter Rollins.
Reach Kevin Eckleberry at (706) 884-7311 or on Twitter @lagrangesports