The 2016 Zachary baseball team is a bit of an enigma for coach Jesse Cassard.
The squad has surprised him by starting 14-10, usually considered a down season by Bronco standards, and he’s still trying to figure out the team, even after a 2-0 start in District 4-5A with wins over Scotlandville and Denham Springs.
After Thursday’s battle against Central and Saturday’s against Walker, Zachary will be midway through its district schedule.
“I didn’t think we’d lose this many games or start off 14-10,” Cassard said. “But it was good to play well (against Scotlandville and Denham Springs), and the kids are starting to get a little confidence and find ways to win. We didn’t know how to win the first couple weeks. But guys are gelling a little better, and if we keep playing hard, we’ll be all right.”
Cassard’s team began the season with what he considered the toughest early schedule his team has faced. With only one returning starter in the lineup, the Broncos took their lumps.
The team has seven seniors, although Hunter David, who hit .470 a year ago, has been hobbled with a nagging hamstring injury.
That lone returning starter is P.J. Cannon, who is hitting .450. He’s the leadoff hitter and knows how to run the bases, which has been a tremendous asset. Cannon’s biggest contribution has been senior leadership, something he learned playing defensive back on the Broncos’ Class 5A state champion football team in the fall.
“He (Cannon) made the decision to play football in college and that’s taken a load off of him, and he’s played unbelievable since that day,” Cassard said. “He is realizing how much the other guys look up to him as a leader, and he’s taken that responsibility and now looks at himself in that role. He’s been on an absolute tear.”
Also making solid contributions are a couple of sophomores, Joey Blanchard and Rhett Hebert, who are both hitting above .400 and have pitched well when needed. Cornelius Ford, the nine-hole hitter, has been what Cassard describes as “a second leadoff hitter” because he gets on base consistently and has been dependable in centerfield.
Pitching was somewhat inconsistent, issuing a lot of free passes, according to Cassard. Through some close losses, he said, his team has figured out how to play and play hard.
Pitcher Robert Burke has been solid on the mound despite a 4-3 record. Those three losses — Barbe, Hahnville and Destrehan — could’ve been wins with some timely hitting support.
“This year has been different, but it’s been fun figuring it out,” Cassard said. “We were inexperienced in the beginning, but 20 games into the sophomore season, you’re almost a junior so it’s time to step up. But it’s totally different than last year, and I still expect them to win. I’m trying to get them to take it personally. I like where we’re at, because it makes us play harder. The kids are hungry.”
Doiron named All-Star
Zachary senior softball player Baylie Doiron is one of 36 girls statewide who have been invited to play in the Louisiana High School Coaches Association/Louisiana Softball Coaches Association All-Star Game. The game will be played May 21 at Louisiana College in Pineville.
Doiron will compete for the East squad, which will be coached by Nancy Ensminger of Dutchtown.
O’Connor shines in Mobile meet
Zachary junior sprinter Janie O’Connor won the 200-meter dash and finished second in the 100-meter dash at the Mobile Challenge of Champions Varsity Girls Invitational April 1-2 in Mobile, Alabama. The two-day meet featured more than 3,000 athletes from 69 schools across the Southeast.
O’Connor finished first in the 200 in 24.31 seconds, besting Destiny Davis, of Baker High of Mobile, who registered 25.07 seconds. In the 100, O’Connor finished second to Jayla Kirkland of Woodlawn High of Birmingham, Alabama.
O’Connor’s time was 11.85 seconds to Kirkland’s 11.78.
Zachary’s 4x100-meter relay team finished first in 48.07 seconds, besting a team from Hoover, Alabama (48.27). Kristian Jackson finished third in the shot put with a throw of 41 feet, 5 inches. The winning toss was 42 feet, 9.75 inches.
High jumper Frankie Griffin finished fourth with a leap of 5 feet, 2 inches against the winning jump of 5-4.
Nique Griffin finished 10th in the girls long jump with an effort of 15 feet, 7.5 inches. The winning jump was 18 feet, 6.25 inches.
Send sports news, photos and stats to Howard Arceneaux at email@example.com.