ZACHARY — Airline High School’s ace pitcher Landon Lewis came into the Vikings’ Class 5A bidistrict playoff game against Zachary High with an outstanding 8-1 regular-season record.
The senior right-hander had a solid game against the 10th-seeded Broncos on Wednesday, but Airline (19-16) couldn’t handle Zachary’s bunting game or solve pitcher Evan Tidwell and came out on the short end of a 10-0, six inning game at Zachary Youth Park.
Zachary (24-11) got all the runs it needed in the first inning without hitting the ball out of the infield.
After Lewis hit Stephen Babin with a pitch to open the game, three of the next four batters laid down bunts, resulting in one sacrifice, two successful squeeze plays and a throwing error by Lewis.
When the inning ended, the Broncos had three unearned runs and a comfortable cushion for Tidwell, a Northwestern State signee.
“Their pitcher was as good as advertised — probably the best we’ve seen all year,” Zachary coach Jesse Cassard said. “He mixes his pitches, keeps it low, and once he gets ahead of you, he pounds it.
“We knew we had to get ahead early. When you face that good a pitcher, I’ll take one or two runs any day.”
After the shaky first inning, Lewis pitched shutout ball until the fourth when Zachary loaded the bases on a single by Kyle Vince, a walk and an error. Stephen Babin followed with a two-run double to push the lead to 5-0.
“I was proud of our guys,” Cassard said. “A few of them struck out their first time up and came back to get base hits. Babin getting that bases-loaded, two-strike hit sort of sealed the deal for us.”
Tidwell won the pitching battle, giving up only one hit in 5.1 innings and facing only two batters over the minimum.
He escaped trouble in the second inning when Airline loaded the bases on a hit batsman and two errors by shortstop Cade Milazzo.
Tidwell got designated hitter Jacob Hires to pop up, and Milazzo redeemed himself with a stellar fielding play, ranging behind second base for Jacob James’ ground ball to get a force out at second base and nail James at first for the double play.
“I’ve seen him (Tidwell) pitch better, but he pitched well. He did what he had to do,” Cassard said. “Getting out of that bases loaded jam was humongous.”
Airline coach Toby Todd pointed to the double play as the turning point in the game.
“It’s hard to chase a three-spot with them (Zachary),” Todd said. “They can be as aggressive as they want to be. We hit some balls hard, and that ground ball (on the double play), if it doesn’t hit the mound and ramp up, it’s probably an RBI single and we’ve got something going. But consistency is something we’ve lacked, and we just couldn’t do it day in and day out.”
Micah McHugh drove in two insurance runs with two outs in the fifth inning, and the Broncos added three more mop-up runs in the sixth off reliever Kyle Backofen to end the game by the 10-run rule.