Zachary pitcher Robert Burke was familiar with Barbe long before the teams met in the championship game of the Denham Springs wood bat tournament Sunday.
The Buccaneers are the three-time defending LHSAA Class 5A state champions, but that wasn’t why Burke was so eager to get on the mound. The reason: Burke only lost three games in this year’s high school season, but one of them came against Barbe.
Burke got all of the revenge he wanted, though, as the Broncos defeated the Buccaneers 7-0 in five innings after a pivotal bottom of the fifth that saw Zachary score six runs to claim a mercy-rule victory.
“It was in the back of my mind,” Burke said about the last time he saw Barbe. “It was a little bit of motivation — a little bit of fire in my belly. I definitely threw more strikes today, got some ground balls for my guys, and the offense really helped me out.”
Burke provided five scoreless innings for the Broncos, allowing four hits while striking out six.
The Buccaneers loaded the bases with one out in the first, but Burke quickly dismantled the rally by getting the next two batters to pop out.
Burke consistently pitched well in pressure situations, stranding four Barbe runners in scoring position.
“To play a team of their caliber and track record, it’s a little intimidating, knowing what they’ve done and the dynasty they’ve built in Lake Charles,” Burke said. “But you can never be scared out there, because then bad things are going to happen.”
Barbe starting pitcher Ryon Stubblefield matched Burke’s performance most of the game, limiting the Broncos to one run and two hits through four innings.
Before then, the only crack in the Buccaneers’ performance came in the third inning, when Zachary right fielder Rhett Hebert hit an RBI double down the third-base line to score Easton Adams.
Everything fell apart for Barbe in the fifth, when the Broncos loaded the bases with no outs. Zachary third baseman Joey Blanchard broke the game open when he took an outside fastball for a line drive to right field that landed for a bases-clearing triple. Left fielder River Town finished the game in the next at-bat with an RBI single.
“Throughout the game, we had a couple good plays that got us going,” Blanchard said. “But once we got a couple walks and a base hit, we really just pulled it in to get a couple runs in the last inning and then a nice little hit to win the game.”