Barbe is No. 1 seed in LHSAA Class 5A baseball playoffs _lowres

Advocate staff photo by John Oubre -- Denham Springs coach Mark Carroll.

Denham Springs High School baseball coach Mark Carroll found a little extra wisdom during an NCAA Final Four news conference that featured Kentucky coach John Calipari.

“I heard Calipari talking about what they try to do,” Carroll said. “It was a lot about preparing players and a team to play at the highest level and how that gets you ready for whoever you play.

“And I really liked that. I’m not a basketball guy, but what he said was a lot like the things we’re stressing, like working to be consistent with everything you do, whether it’s practice or games.”

Of course, Carroll knows the Yellow Jackets (14-7, 3-1) won’t play just any opponent Saturday. DSHS hosts District 4-5A leader Zachary (20-5, 4-0) at 1 p.m. at North Park’s A.B. Netterville Field.

It is the latest showdown in 4-5A, a district that exudes parity and its own notable foursome. Live Oak (15-7, 2-2) and Walker (11-13, 2-2) are part of the competitive mix as the teams complete the first round of play.

Live Oak returns a number of players from last year’s team that was the Class 5A runner-up. Third-ranked Zachary and No. 9 Denham Springs are the two teams ranked in the Louisiana Baseball Coaches Association’s most recent Class 5A top 10.

“Zachary and Denham Springs is always a big game for both teams,” Zachary coach Jesse Cassard said. “Last year they got the better of us both times we played and that adds a little something to it for us.

“We both know what we’re getting. Denham Springs is going to play extremely hard and they’re well-coached. We’ve both got quality pitching and hitting. And we’re playing pretty well right now. This is the kind of game you want to play.”

Zachary puts a six-game winning streak on the line. Denham Springs bounced back from its lone league loss to Central with a win over Scotlandville on Tuesday.

Signs point toward a pitcher’s duel. Left-hander Corey Musselman (6-0), a Northwestern State signee, gets the start for Zachary. Bailey Holstein (5-0), a right-hander, draws the assignment for Denham Springs.

However, offense is and typically has been Zachary’s thing. The Broncos are hitting .358 as a team. Catcher Evan Pace, a Southeastern Louisiana University signee, leads the Broncos with a .508 batting average and 38 RBIs.

Ole Miss signee Micah McHugh got the win in Thursday’s game against Walker. McHugh also is hitting .386 with six home runs and 36 RBIs. McHugh will play either first or third. Infielders Gabe Hannum and P.J. Cannon are the table setters.

Denham Springs doesn’t have gaudy offensive numbers. South Alabama signee Travis Swaggerty is hitting over .400, Swaggerty plays right field and also is the closer for the Yellow Jackets. Left fielder Jonah Overland and Holstein are hitting over .300 for DSHS.

“We don’t have the big batting averages,” Carroll said. “What we do have is on-base percentages that are good numbers and our quality at-bats.

“In a game like this, you expect quality pitching. Then it comes down to timely hits and making plays.”

“It’s fundamentals and baseball,” Cassard added.