ZACHARY — Zachary High School baseball coach Jesse Cassard smiled and said it looks like his team is finally finding its identity.
That was certainly good new for the Broncos. However, Zachary’s 7-2 victory over District 4-5A rival Denham Springs on Saturday at Zachary Youth Park still was the best news of the day.
Pitcher Robert Burke (4-3) scattered five hits and struck out eight for ZHS. The junior had a three-ball count on just two batters.
“I try to throw and in the strike zone and let my teammates make plays,” Burke said. “Strikes win games. Sometimes they turn into ground balls and fly balls. That’s all I was looking for.
“We always try to be aggressive early at bat. Once we got that lead, I went after them (the Yellow Jackets hitters).”
With the win, Zachary (14-11, 2-0) remains unbeaten in 4-5A. Denham Springs is 13-7, 1-1.
The Broncos set the tone early, scoring three runs in the bottom of the first after Burke struck out the side in the top of the inning.
DSHS sophomore starter Chris Courville issued three walks and Zachary took advantage, scoring its first runs off one hit and two errors. Second baseman P.J. Cannon was the catalyst as a leadoff hitter and led off four times in the game.
Cannon finished 2-for-3 with a double and triple and two runs scored. He drew a lead-off walk in the first, was sacrificed to second and later scored on a wild pitch. A misjudged fly ball scored one run. Shortstop Joseph Payne, who was 2-for-3 with two RBIs, had an RBI hit.
“Coaches preach to us to have energy in the dugout and stay positive,” Cannon said. “We’ve been through a lot this year and this win was big for us. We had to stay focused, and part of our identity has to be staying consistent.”
There were some Zachary miscues early. Catcher Jacob Siegel led off the top of the second with a single for DSHS. Two errors brought courtesy runner Brent Huffman around to score. Cam DeBate came on in relief and got the final two outs in the first. Zachary took control by scoring two runs in both the third and fourth innings.
“Chris Courville is a sophomore who has been very good for us,” Denham Springs coach Mark Carroll said. “But you can’t have that kind of start. Walks and errors win or lose games. You have a close, competitive game if we come out and play that first inning better.
“(Burke) pitched the way you have to pitch in district. You had to beat him because he wasn’t going to beat himself.”
Rhett Hebert led off the bottom of the third with a single and later scored on a single by Payne. An error then scored Payne. Cannon tripled to left-center to open the fourth and scored on Joey Blanchard’s single. Blanchard stole second, was sacrificed to third and scored on Grant Quinn’s sacrifice fly.
“We felt like our guys were locked in,” Cassard said. “We had some big two-strike hits and I also credit Burke … we’ve challenged him and he responded.
“It took us a while to find out where we need to be and we lost some games to some good teams. Now I think we know what level we need to play at.”