Despite having a young team with no senior starters, coach Leslie Yellott’s Zachary softball squad is holding its own heading down the stretch toward the Class 5A playoffs.
Going into a District 4-5A showdown with rival Live Oak on Tuesday, the Lady Broncos were 18-11 on the season and 5-4 in district.
ZHS starts four juniors, three sophomores and two freshmen in a lineup that is experiencing success in the present with an optimistic eye toward the future. Prior to the Live Oak game, Yellott’s squad defeated powerhouse Parkview 6-4 in a nondistrict clash. It continues to battle for third place in a tough District 4-5A.
“This season, we’ve had high highs, games we won, amazing wins, where we played to the best of our ability,” said Yellott, who is in her 10th season with Zachary. “But we’ve also had games where we walk six or seven and commit a bunch of errors. In the beginning, we were fairly inconsistent. We were brilliant in flashes and I said ‘There’s my team.’ ”
She credits it to building experience, and that takes time.
“The kids have stepped in and done a great job,” said Yellott, who pitched for Nicholls State. “That’s what it takes to win: Play pitch to pitch to the best of our abilities. You have to play with short-term memory. This year, I want them to fight every pitch of every game.”
Zachary finished 21-7 last year and was relatively young, losing in the first round of the playoffs to Sulphur. Yellott’s team hasn’t advanced past the first round since 2010, when the Lady Broncos made it all the way to the Class 5A semifinals.
Leading the way for Zachary are pitcher Baylie Doiron and catcher Lakyn Wales. Doiron hasn’t had a whole lot of time on the mound until this year, and Wales didn’t start playing catcher until she was a freshman.
“They are really learning a lot, and I rely on them,” Yellott said.
She doesn’t classify her team as a speed squad or a powerhouse that hits a lot of home runs. “Everybody complements each other in a lot of ways,” she said.
Sophomore center fielder Abby Lewis is the team’s leading hitter with a .416 average and she plays in different spots in the lineup depending on whether Yellott expects the other teams to try and pitch around Doiron, who is batting .400 with 29 walks including 21 against district foes.
“When they try to pitch around Baylie, I put her first in the lineup to get her on base at least four times,” Yellott said.
Also providing consistency at the plate are junior third-baseman Hannah Dixon at .345 and Wales at .302.
Right now, Yellott; her husband Robbie, an assistant coach and a statistical guru; and assistant coaches Brittney Perry and Rudy Koppenol are starting to focus on the post-season tournament.
ZHS’ power ranking is anywhere from 16 to 13 in the state, which means it will likely host a first-round game when the playoffs begin. After that, it’s anybody’s guess, and hopefully, a playoff run.
And then the focus will turn to next season.
“The goal is to get all our kids back,” Yellott said. “They give up a lot of their time and sacrifice a lot. I hope they all come back and are dedicated to the team, no matter what happens this year.”
ZHS track and field girls continue to hit stride
The Zachary girls’ track and field team continues to prove it’s one of the state’s elite squads as the Lady Broncos won first place at the Dutchtown Invitational and finished second behind St. Joseph’s Academy at the Episcopal Invitational.
The Zachary boys finished third in the two meets.
Winning events in the Dutchtown Invitational, where the Lady Broncos scored 105 points to outdistance St. Joseph’s Academy (76 points), were Kristian Jackson in the shot put and Janie O’Connor in the 200-meter dash and the 4x100 and 4x200 relay teams.
The Bronco boys squad finished with 69.5 points behind Catholic High (194) and Episcopal (76).
The top Zachary finisher was Caesar Moore, who won the 400-meter run and was on the 4x400 relay squad, which captured first place.
At the Episcopal Invitational, the Lady Broncos were second with 118 points behind St. Joseph’s (159). Earning first-place finishes were Jackson in the shot put, DaKota Williams in the 100-meter dash and O’Connor in the 400-meter run.
The Zachary boys finished with 67 points behind Catholic High (202) and West Feliciana (71).
Send sports news, photos and stats to Howard Arceneaux at email@example.com.