After losing Game 1 of their series against Westminster, the Cavaliers responded by winning the next two games to advance to the second round of the Class AA state playoffs.
Callaway will face Crawford County today in a doubleheader at 3:30 p.m., with a third game, if needed, set for Thursday.
“Without a doubt I think it helped us,” Callaway head coach Dusty Hubbard said of the competitive opening-round series. “Ill be honest, I think we played game one a little tight. I can remember back in 2007 (when the Cavaliers made the state semifinals) we played the same way, and after that we got our breath and showed that we could win, we were able to settle down a little. It was a good test for us, and I think that it did northing but help us moving forward.”
Crawford County (18-10), the third seed from Region 4-AA, is coming off a sweep of East Laurens in the first round.
Crawford County and Callaway were in the same region in 2009 and 2010, so the teams have a familiarity with one another.
Crawford County has a new coach this season in Craig Puckett, and he has guided the Eagles to a terrific season.
“They have beaten some good teams throughout the year,” Hubbard said. “We know that they have a good number one pitcher who has a great curveball and they are scrappy offensively. I think they will be a tough out.”
The Cavaliers are pretty good in their own right.
After winning a second straight Region 5-AA championship, Callaway improved to 24-5 with the series win over Westminster.
Also, the Cavaliers will be at home where they’ve lost just twice all season.
“That’s one thing that we have going for us,” Hubbard said. “I feel like we play well here. There are a lot of other things too like we don’t have to worry about getting on a bus, or finding a place to hit before the game. That’s a benefit, there is no doubt.”
The Cavaliers are also healthier than they were last week.
Before the Westminster series, senior third baseman Tavin Thompson and sophomore pitcher and outfielder Nick O’Berry were each dealing with injuries.
Thompson had a severe cut on his hand, and O’Berry had a knee injury.
Both players not only play, though, they contributed in a major way.
O’Berry threw a no-hitter in a Game 2 win, and he got the save in Game 3 when he struck out three straight batters to end the game.
“Both of those guys stepped up huge for us,” head coach Dusty Hubbard said. “To be injured and come out and help the team like that was something great to see.”
Hubbard believes Thompson and O’Berry are typical Callaway players, meaning they’re physically and mentally tough.
“I do think that we have pretty tough kids,” Hubbard said. “We try to do some things in practice to make sure we stay mentally tough and I think that has worked out well for us and is one of the big reasons why we won that series.”
Hubbard said another key to this team’s success has been the performance of some younger players who have filled big roles.
On Saturday, one of those players, freshman Perry Keith, came through with the biggest hit of the season, a game-tying solo home run in the fifth inning that made it a 1-1 game.
“That takes a lot of toughness,” Hubbard said. “For Perry to step up in a big spot like that for us was huge.”