WALKER —Talk about your extremes.
In the span of just over three weeks Walker’s baseball team has gone from simply trying to qualify for the Class 5A state playoffs to sitting atop the District 4-5A standings.
“With our record, three weeks ago, we were trying to secure a playoff spot,” Walker coach Randy Sandifer said. “I think we’ve worked our way enough where trying to get into that top 16 (to host).”
Walker continued its torrid stretch, breaking a tie in the bottom of the fifth inning with three runs and reliever Dane Dixon capped a scoreless, three-inning outing with a strikeout for a 4-1 home victory Saturday over Zachary.
Walker (16-9, 5-0 in 4-5A) closed the first round of league play in first place, followed by Zachary (16-11, 4-1), which had its five-game win streak stopped.
Since the second game of the Atchafalaya Challenge on March 18, Walker’s won 12 of its past 14 games and should see a boost in its No. 18 unofficial power rating by the LHSAA this week.
“Do I think we can be 5-0 the second round?” Sandifer said. “If we continue to pitch and play defense like we have, it’s a possibility because we’re not giving up anything.”
Walker kept Zachary, which led 1-0 within its sights, throwing out two runners at the plate in the first three innings and another at third base.
“Offensively, we lost the game today,” Zachary coach Jesse Cassard said. “If we execute and get the runs in, then we’re up 4-1. It’s frustrating that we didn’t show up with the mindset of getting after it and being aggressive.”
Walker (16-9) snuffed out a suicide squeeze attempt when catcher Hunter Murray tagged out courtesy runner RJ Newton after Anthony Fidanza doubled in a run.
With PJ Cannon at third and one out, Rhett Hebert bounced to Walker first baseman Noah Danburg, who threw to Murray to get Cannon.
“We got lucky where we threw a couple of guys out at the plate,” Sandifer said. “In a game like this, if you’re going to win, you’ve got to make those plays.”
Third baseman Jason Ard tied it in the third with a sacrifice fly and gave Walker the lead for good off losing pitcher Joey Blanchard in the fifth.
Ard’s hard-hit single up the middle got all the way to the fence in center, enabling Ard to score and the Wildcats took advantage of a second Zachary error in the inning to account for the final score.
Dixon, who inherited a two- on, no-out jam from starting pitcher Mason Lockhart in the fifth, retired seven of the eight batters he faced to earn the victory. He allowed a two-out double to Ford in the seventh but struck out Cannon to end the game.
“We didn’t want them to have that much momentum,” Dixon said. “They’re usually in the top spot in district. We tried to take a deep breath, relax and play our game.”