ZACHARY — Over the past week, Zachary and Sam Houston have met twice in a pair of Class 5A Top 10 matchups, with each team scoring a victory.
The next time their paths cross figures to be at some juncture in the postseason.
“You play somebody like that, you’ll probably go .500,” Zachary coach Jesse Cassard said. “That’s probably a semifinal, maybe a state championship team. They’ll go deep in the playoffs.”
No. 4 Zachary, which dropped a 7-1 decision to No. 5 Sam Houston in last week’s Barbe tournament, returned the favor Sunday afternoon in the Landmark Bank Invitational with a 4-1 victory at John Herty Field.
Zachary added a dramatic 7-6 win over West Feliciana to complete the day.
Ace left-hander Cory Musselman gave Zachary 5.2 strong innings before running into trouble and was relieved by Brennan Booth.
“They threw their No. 1, and our No. 3 didn’t match up with them, and it was just unfortunate they kind of blew us out a bit,” Cassard said. “I thought Musselman did a great job competing. He got out of some jams, and that’s what good pitchers do.”
Musselman (4-0) got the first two outs in the sixth before Sam Houston (10-5) got consecutive singles from Peyton Johnson and Jake Cochran, the Nos. 5-6 hitters in the lineup, who combined for four of their team’s eight hits.
Chris Haggard loaded the bases on a 10-pitch, walk and Musselman’s 100-pitch outing (69 strikes) was over after hitting designated hitter Chris Colley, pulling Sam Houston to within 3-1.
Musselman, who stranded six of Sam Houston’s eight runners, allowed six hits, walked two and struck out five.
Booth, a submarining right-hander, rallied from a 3-1 count against Josh Rome and coaxed a fly out to River Town in left field.
“If we’re going to going to be a good team, we’ve to get those big hits when it matters most,” said Sam Houston coach Ross Blankenship, whose team defeated West Feliciana 5-4 earlier in the day. “I thought we had a decent approach against Musselman and were one big hit away from being back in it.”
Booth worked himself out of a two-on, two-out jam in the seventh by getting Johnson to bounce out to end the game.
“My job is to come in and throw strikes and let the defense work,” Booth said. “I like throwing two-seam fastballs and running it in on hitters and getting them to ground out. I just trust the defense and let them do the work.”
Zachary’s offense produced three key hits in its six-hit allotment off losing pitcher Matthew Devillier (2-1).
Designated hitter Micah McHugh led off the second with a homer, his third of the year, and catcher Evan Pace did the same in the sixth with his fourth of the season, making it 4-1.
In between, Devillier, who allowed four earned runs, walked one and struck out three, retired nine of 10 batters until first baseman Hunter David’s one-out single to right-center in the fifth.
Pinch-runner Cornelius Ford stole second base and took third on an errant throw on the play. Town singled up the middle through a drawn-in infield. And one out later, leadoff batter Gabe Hannum added a two-out RBI double to left-center.
“Sam Houston’s a good team, and any chance we get to go up on them, we’ve got to take it,” Town said. “They beat us real bad last week. They’re a very good team and ranked high. We knew it would help our rankings and confidence if we do what we do best and beat them.”