When Zachary High School’s Gabe Hannum drove home courtesy runner Rhett Hebert with a solid hit in the bottom of the eighth inning, it gave the Broncos a 3-2 win over Central, kept Zachary tied at the top of District 4-5A, and ended an emotional, entertaining high school baseball game.

“We’re learning while we’re winning, and that’s a lot more fun,” Zachary coach Jesse Cassard said. “This is the same group that were starters last year and we lost seven one-run games, five in extra innings. Now we’re ready for extra innings. The experience paid off.”

Central (13-10, 3-1 in district) had forged two one-run leads, 1-0 in the third on a Brennan Fontenot home run, and 2-1 in the fifth on Brady Jones’ two-out double, but Zachary (19-5) clawed back into the game both times.

Freshman River Town tied the game at 1-1 in the fourth, an inning in which the Broncos loaded the bases without a hit but managed only one run.

An error, a walk and a hit batsman set Zachary up for a big inning, but Douglas Coleman was thrown out at home on an unsuccessful squeeze play and Town was called out for interference when he collided with second baseman Tristan Tullier.

The game was tied at 2-2 in the bottom of the seventh when Hannum led off with a single, went to second on a single by Evan Pace, and scored on an errant throw to third base with no one covering.

Starting pitchers Corey Musselman for Zachary and sophomore Makhail Hilliard for Central, backed by some sparkling defensive plays, kept the bats mostly silent, with only two extra base hits in the game — Fontenot’s home run and Jones’ double.

Both went 6.1 innings and ended with a no-decision, and both came up with clutch pitches and worked out of jams to keep their teams close.

Both teams turned one double play in the game, and Zachary kept the go-ahead run from scoring in the fifth on a Town-to-Bo Myers-to-Pace relay to cut down James Schopp on Jones’ double.

The Broncos failed in three squeeze opportunities, a trend that perplexed Cassard.

“The funny thing is, our program is known for bunting and executing and creating a little chaos out there,” he said. “It’s just in our heads now-we just need to get a couple of bunts down.”

Central coach Mike Forbes had high praise for his team, especially his young pitcher.

“We battled, and we swung it pretty good,” said Forbes, whose team pounded out 11 hits. “We got people on. We just need to figure out a way to get them in. And Mikhail is something else. He battles. He’s been like that all year. His pitch count was getting up, but it was still tough to take him out.”

Brennan Booth got the win in relief for Zachary, while Cameron Polk took the loss.

Musselman was in control through the first three innings. The quick-working left-hander gave up a one-out single to James Schopp in the first, but rang up two strikeouts, Joseph Schopp swinging and caught Jones looking.

His teammates wasted no time testing Hilliard, putting runners on first and second with one out. After left fielder Adam Porche robbed Micah McHugh of a certain extra-base hit with a fine running catch in left, Myers reached on a sharp grounder off the chest of first baseman Andrew Harris, loading the bases. Hilliard went to a full count on Coleman before retiring him on a called third strike.

After the Schopp brothers were erased on a slick double play in the third, Fontenot hooked a high fly ball that cleared the fence just inside the right field foul pole.