WALKER — The Walker baseball team started district play 8-0, but the Wildcats were far from perfect Tuesday night against Denham Springs in their final regular-season home game.
Defensive miscues in the second and fifth innings led to five unearned Denham runs, and pitchers Brock Batty and Grant Schlitz did the rest as the Yellow Jackets handed Walker its first District 4-5A setback in a 5-3 decision.
“The first eight games, the other team made the mistakes and we capitalized,” Walker coach Randy Sandifer said. “Tonight, it was just reversed.”
Walker (19-10, 8-1) had a chance to claim at least a share of the 4-5A title by completing a two-game season sweep of Denham.
Instead, the Wildcats head to Zachary on Thursday for what now shapes up as a winner-take-all proposition atop the district race.
Zachary defeated Central on Tuesday to pull even with Walker in the standings.
As for the Yellow Jackets (17-11, 5-4), they hope that they have put behind a late-season lull by winning back-to-back district games for the first time this season.
“We’re trying to scratch back into it and get ready for the playoffs,” Denham Springs coach Mark Carroll said.
Batty held Walker scoreless before giving up a full-count, three-run double to Corey Dietrich with two outs in the sixth. Schlitz got a groundout to end the inning, then worked around a one-out error in the seventh to record the save.
Dietrich also had a double to lead off the third but was left stranded when Batty worked out of trouble against the top of the Walker lineup.
By that time, the Wildcats had already dug themselves a tough-luck 4-0 hole.
Walker starter Noah Danburg appeared to have kept the game scoreless in the second when he induced a two-out grounder to first, but senior Ryan Farace was unable to make the play. Denham jumped on the chance to make it hurt.
Dillon Boyle made it 1-0 with an RBI infield single. Two more runs scored on Cade Doughty’s infield single.
Then, Tistan Spedale struck for an RBI single to left for the 4-0 lead. The four runs in the second were more than Walker had given up in any one game during its 8-0 start to the district season.
“That’s such a momentum thing to get that big of a cushion that early in the game,” Carroll said. “That took a lot of pressure off us.”
Walker’s second error of the night came when third baseman Jacob Ard failed to come up with a one-out grounder by Braden Doughty in the fifth. Cam DeBate followed with an RBI single to make it 5-0.
“I thought Noah pitched well enough to walk away with a win, but he’s got to have some help behind him,” Sandifer said. “It is what it is. When you put yourself in that kind of hole and give up four unearned runs early in the ballgame, it takes away from what we want to do.”
Cade Doughty had three hits from the leadoff spot to lead the Denham offense.
Batty finished with three strikeouts and three walks and gave up six hits. Schiltz held Walker hitless and struck out two.