ZACHARY — Zachary baseball team held its breath as it watched the season come down to a matter of feet.
With two outs in the bottom of the seventh and the tying run on second, Zachary senior PJ Cannon hit a high fly ball that pushed Ruston left fielder Cade Gibson to the warning track. If it’s over the fence, the Broncos win 5-4. If not, the season is over and Ruston wins 4-3 to advance in the Class 5A playoffs.
It’s short. Bearcats win.
“We hit several balls to the warning track,” Zachary coach Jesse Cassard said. “The wind is blowing in 15 miles per hour. I think if the wind isn’t blowing, we walk them off.
“That’s how it goes, though. Baseball is a funny game.”
The No. 26 Bearcats pulled off the series upset over No. 10 Zachary two games to one, including a split of Saturday’s doubleheader.
Zachary won the first game of the day 6-2 despite sitting through a 3 hour and 24 minute weather delay because of lightning in the area.
Zachary pitcher Robert Burke (8-3) went the complete seven innings in the first game, surprising Cassard with how well he held up through the break.
Cassard said letting Burke come back out to finish the game was against his instincts as a coach, and that the original plan was to let him finish only the inning, but Burke insisted he could go the distance.
“During the delay, coach (Cassard) came up to me and said, ‘You’re done. We’re going to put in Rhett Hebert, and we’re going to try to save you for the next round. We don’t want you to hurt your arm.’
“I said, ‘Coach, this is my game, and I’m going out there to finish it.’”
The junior retired 10 straight batters to end the game after the delay, including five strikeouts, which matched his total from the first half of the game, as well.
Through all seven innings, Burke allowed two runs on two hits.
Zachary’s luck didn’t hold up in the second game, though, as Ruston jumped ahead to a 3-1 lead by the middle of the second inning, due in part to what should have been a routine ground ball to third base, but quickly turned into a pair of errors and two unearned runs for the Bearcats.
Ruston pitchers Treysten Dowdy and Graham Hanes combined to allow three runs on eight hits, but also stranded five runners on base as Zachary could never claim a lead.
Hebert did manage to knock in a seventh-inning RBI double to pull the Broncos to within one, but Cannon’s fly ball ended the game.
Cassard said the Broncos never seemed to get a bounce to fall their way in the deciding game three, especially on two line drive double plays that killed any offensive momentum they had.
“I still feel like we’re the better team, but the best team doesn’t always win. Sometimes it’s just the team that plays the best,” Cassard said. “We didn’t put any pressure on them. It just didn’t go our way. Hardly anything went our way.”