There were times when Mark Carroll of Denham Springs and Zachary’s Jesse Cassard got to commiserate and compare notes about their young baseball teams.
Now comes the reality check. DSHS (13-7, 1-0) travels to Zachary (13-10, 1-0) for a key District 4-5A game set for 1 p.m. Saturday at Zachary Youth Park.
“In a lot of ways, I think the teams are mirror images of each other,” Cassard said. “We’ve had a great rivalry now for several years. Over the last three or four years, it’s always been the same names playing key roles.
“Those guys graduated, and we’ve got new guys trying to fill those roles. On top of that, we’ve played the toughest schedule we’ve played in 10 years. Denham Springs always plays a tough schedule. You do that to get ready for district and the playoffs, but it’s tough.”
The teams are coming off very different Thursday wins.
Denham Springs trailed 6-1 through three innings and took a 7-6 victory over Live Oak. Freshman outfielder Cade Doughty’s extra-base hit scored the tying and winning runs in the bottom of the seventh.
Shortstop Jacob Payne finished 2-for-2 with three RBIs, including a two-RBI double to help Zachary beat Scotlandville 12-0 in five innings. Anthony Fidanza tossed a one-hitter for the Broncos.
Both teams went into the Thursday games seeking a win. Zachary lost to 3A power Brusly on Wednesday in a nondistrict game.
Denham Springs had lost nondistrict games to St. Amant and Catholic High over the last week.
“Growing pains … that’s something we’ve both experienced,” DSHS’ Carroll said. “Each of us only have a couple of guys back who were starters and sometimes you’re in a position where those guys try to do too much.
“I think that happened with Brock (Batty, DSHS pitcher) last night. We’ve both got guys in our program who have waited their turn and now it’s their turn to produce. There’s no timetable you can put on that, so you’re going to have some ups and downs.”
Both coaches mentioned Walker’s 4-2 victory over Central on Thursday as an example of how balanced 4-5A is. Games with Live Oak and Central loom next week, but Cassard said no one needs to think past Saturday.
“I told our guys last night there are two things we always expect when we play Denham Springs,” Cassard said, “It’s going to be competitive, and it’s probably going to be a one-run game.”
Carroll added: “It comes down to whoever can find a way to make the most plays. (Zachary has) done a good job getting back to their basics of running and laying bunts, and they’ll pressure you.”
Zachary ace John Burke (3-3) is set to get the start. Chris Courville is the probable starter for Denham Springs.
Cassard summed it best, saying “District is here, and we’ve got nine games left.”