ZACHARY — It was opportunistic baseball at its best for Zachary High. And it was a heart-breaker for Denham Springs High.
In the bottom of the seventh, Cade Milazzo scored the winning run on Evan Pace’s suicide squeeze bunt as Zachary notched a 3-2 come-from-behind win over DSHS on Saturday at Zachary Youth Park.
With the win, Zachary (20-9, 4-1) claimed sole possession of first place in a District 4-5A race that saw the three top teams all lose at least once in less than 24 hours.
Denham Springs pitcher Brennan Batty (4-2) took a no-hitter into the seventh and yielded just two hits, Pace’s bunt and a single to Kyle Vince, who broke up the no-hitter with one out.
“That was like a second-round playoff game,” Zachary coach Jesse Cassard said. “Little things ended up winning it. We put in our fastest guy to pinch run, and he scores on a bang-bang play at the plate. It’s all about personnel. We had the right person (Pace) at the plate to bunt at the end.”
Denham Springs (17-7, 3-2) lost to ZHS after also dropping a game to Walker on Friday. Despite losing its Friday game to Live Oak, the Broncos are alone in first, thanks to Scotlandville’s Saturday win over Walker. Denham Springs and WHS are now tied for second.
Batty, a junior right-hander, was masterful, throwing 59 pitches through six innings for Denham Springs. DSHS third baseman Caleb Watson, who finished 2-for-3, was the only player with more than one hit for either team. Reliever Travis Cliburn (4-0) got the win for ZHS.
Four errors — two in the bottom of the first and two in the seventh — helped sink the Yellow Jackets.
“Brennan Batty was absolutely super,” Denham Springs coach Mark Carroll said. “He gave us 1,000 chances to win.
“Anybody in this district can win at any time. You’ve got to be ready to come out to play every day, and today proved it.”
Vince broke up the no-hitter with a single to center. Cassard inserted freshman P.J. Cannon to pinch run. It was the first varsity appearance for Cannon, who went from first to third when Milazzo reached on one error and then scored on a second error.
Carroll said he appealed, questioning whether Cannon touched third base after rounding the bag and then coming back to touch it. The umpires denied the appeal. Milazzo came all the way around to third and then scored the game winner on Pace’s squeeze bunt.
The Broncos parlayed two errors into a run in the bottom of the first. Leadoff hitter Steven Babin reached on an error and stole second. Babin took third on a groundout by Andre Weber and scored when Micah McHugh reached on an error.
ZHS starter Evan Tidwell had three strikeouts in the first two innings, but also hit three DSHS batters in the early going. Cassard lifted Tidwell, who was on a pitch count, in the fifth.
The Yellow Jackets tied it in the top of the third. Wes Brown was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning and was sacrificed to second by designated hitter Benton Lieux. Watson reached on an infield hit to put runners on first and third with one out. Andrew Ayres’ groundout scored Brown.
After giving up a first-inning run, Batty retired 17 ZHS batters in a row. He had five strikeouts. The junior right-hander got stronger as the game went on, retiring the Broncos on four pitches in the fourth and five in the fifth.
Denham Springs turned three hits into a go-ahead run in the top of the fifth. First, Lieux doubled. The Yellow Jackets had a runner thrown out as Watson reached on an infield hit. Carl Guidry greeted reliever Trent Crowder with a single that brought Watson home with the go-ahead run.