Walker baseball coach Randy Sandifer didn’t expect anyone to flirt with a perfect 10-0 record in District 4-5A this season, much less his own team.
Yet the Wildcats were off to an 8-0 start in the district as they entered the final week of the regular season, needing only one more win to clinch at least a share of the 4-5A championship and just two more wins to complete a surprising 10-0 run through the league.
Walker (19-9) was scheduled to host Denham Springs on Tuesday before finishing with a trip to Zachary on Thursday.
“In this district,” Sandifer said of 4-5A, a league littered with perennial playoff contenders, “we were thinking 6-4 probably gives you enough wins to get in the playoffs, and 8-2 would have you in position to compete for a district championship.”
Walker barely made the Class 5A playoffs last year, grabbing the final spot in the 32-team field and bowing out in the first round.
Sandifer worried this year would offer a similar fate — his team fighting and scrapping for its playoff lives — as the Wildcats sputtered through the first part of their schedule with a 5-7 record.
“We played OK, but we were always missing a key hit at times or we’d make a defensive error,” Sandifer said. “We were having a hard time putting anything together. We didn’t get any baseball breaks. I was really wondering if we were going to stay on that (playoff) bubble all year.”
The turning point for the Wildcats came in victories over Carencro, Comeaux and St. Thomas More over a two-day stretch at the Atchafalaya Challenge in Lafayette. Two of those wins required extra innings.
“That’s kind of when it turned around was in that 36-hour period,” Sandifer said. “We gained some confidence, and it carried over.”
Walker wasn’t expected to challenge for district honors this season, but Sandifer said team chemistry has played a big role in the Wildcats’ success.
“Everybody has accepted their role,” he said.
Jacob Ard, Kyle Nevels, Chance Dixon and Bailey Gautreaux have led a balanced attack on offense.
Ard entered the week batting .360 with 19 RBIs, Nevels was hitting .357 with two homers and 15 RBIs, and Geautreaux had a .338 average to go with six homers and 26 RBIs. Dixon was batting .341 with three doubles and 12 RBIs.
On the mound, Walker’s pitching staff did not allow more than three runs to a district opponent during the 8-0 start. Noah Danburg (5-1, 2.69 ERA), Lane Thomas (4-1, 1.63) and Kyle Guidry (4-2, 1.62) anchor the starting rotation. Dane Dixon, with one win and two saves in district action, developed into the team’s top relief pitcher.
As for Sandifer, he picked up his 300th career win in 15 seasons as a head coach in Saturday’s 13-3 victory over Scotlandville.
Big day for Live Oak’s Hall
Live Oak senior Savannah Hall made her final regular-season home game a memorable one April 12 by leading the Eagles in the pitching circle and in the batter’s box.
In the circle, Hall hurled a five-inning no-hitter against Zachary. At the plate, she delivered a two-run homer to highlight a 10-run offensive explosion.
Hall’s efforts led Live Oak to an impressive 10-0 mercy-rule win that earned the Eagles a share of the District 4-5A title alongside Zachary.
Zachary beat Live Oak in the playoffs last year as well as in the first round of district play this season.
Seven make softball playoffs
Live Oak, the No. 5 seed in Class 5A, helps lead a list of seven schools from Livingston Parish that were part of the LHSAA softball playoffs in their respective classifications.
Walker, the No. 21 seed, and 26th-seeded Denham Springs joined Live Oak in the 5A field.
In 3A, Albany was seeded 19th. In 2A, Doyle snagged the No. 12 seed.
Holden in Class B and Maurepas in Class C each received No. 2 seeds, earning those schools a bye in the first round of the playoffs.
The top eight teams in each classification advance to the Fast Pitch 56 state tournament at Frasch Park in Sulphur on April 29 and 30.
Last year, Denham Springs and Maurepas represented Livingston Parish at state.
Two girls named All-Metro
Lexi McMorris, of Denham Springs, and Sydney Hayden, of Holden, were named to The Advocate’s All-Metro girls basketball team, adding to a memorable season after both players led their teams to an appearance in the state championship game.
McMorris averaged 13.3 points and 3.3 steals for Denham and was one of the team’s top defenders.
Hayden averaged 15.5 points, 5.8 rebounds and 2.5 assists for Holden.
Holden defeated Florien in the Class B title game to give the Rockets their fifth state championship in girls basketball. McMorris and Denham fell one win short, losing to Mount Carmel in the 5A final.
Parkview Baptist junior Skyler Goodwin was named the All-Metro Player of the Year. Her coach, Christina Anderson, was named the All-Metro Coach of the Year.