WATSON — Tuesday night’s District 4-5A showdown between Zachary and Live Oak carried a playoff atmosphere from start to finish.
What started out as a pitchers' duel morphed into the teams trading clutch at-bats in the late innings. LSU commitment Alex Milazzo put Zachary ahead for good with a solo home run in the top of the ninth, his second of the game, and the Broncos went on to defeat Live Oak 5-4.
The win has Zachary (23-8, 6-2) are poised to claim the district title Wednesday. The Broncos will need to sweep a doubleheader from Scotlandville, which is winless in district play, to claim the outright title.
“Its huge (winning this game) going into the doubleheader,” Zachary coach Jacob Fisher said. “Not only being able to win a district championship, but letting the momentum run into the playoffs.”
The game was tied 3-3 through six innings, but Milazzo changed that with one out in the top of the seventh. He hit a 2-1 pitch over the left field wall to give Zachary a 4-3 lead.
The lead was short-lived.
Brant Smith answered for Live Oak (22-10, 5-4) in the bottom of the seventh with a one-out home run of his own, this one a solo shot to right to send the game to extra innings.
Neither team scored in the eighth, but Milazzo came up in the ninth with one out. This time he homered to left-center off Eagles reliever Cade Dupont. The home runs were Milazzo’s first two of the season.
“I just try clear my mind when I go up (to the plate),” Milazzo said. “I just try to compete and give my team my best at-bat.”
Zachary pitcher Tanner Hall went 8⅔ innings to get the win. He threw 112 pitches, 85 for strikes, and kept his composure after giving up three runs in the fifth inning.
Before that, Hall pitched efficiently needing just 38 pitches to work through the first four innings.
LIve Oak starter Sal Palermo was also effective, and held Zachary in check until the fourth inning. Brady Hernandez’ two-run single gave the Broncos the lead.
In the Live Oak fifth, Rhett Rosevear’s two-run single tied the game, and left runners at the corners. The next batter, Cam Dickerson, put down a bunt that Hall was unable to handle allowing the go-ahead run to score.
In the Zachary sixth, the Broncos loaded the bases on two singles and a hit batter. Pinch hitter Devin Hannum’s fielder’s choice ground ball to second drove in the tying run.
“That was a great high school baseball game,” Live Oak coach Jesse Cassard said. “I feel good about our team. Its a tough loss because we fought back and forth, but I know what these guys are made of and they’re not going to give up. I feel good going into the playoffs.”