ZACHARY — Zachary’s goals for Friday night were to build momentum heading into the playoffs, make sure all of its seniors played on senior night and, most importantly, that the Broncos came away with a District 4-5A championship.
Check, check and for the first time since 2013, check.
Zachary exploded in the early innings defeat Walker 9-4 in what was a de facto district championship between the top two teams on the final day of the regular season.
The Broncos (21-11, 9-1) scored all of their runs in the first four innings, including five in the first inning.
In the first inning, Zachary chipped away at the Wildcats (19-11, 8-2) with a pair of RBI singles by pitcher Joey Blanchard and right fielder Anthony Fidanza, but sophomore River Town cleared the bases with a three-run double off the wall that helped the Broncos break the game open.
“We wanted to get the seniors out there,” Town said. “Some of our seniors weren’t starting, so us younger guys had to get up there and score some runs for our seniors who have really earned this.”
Town’s double forced Walker coach Randy Sandifer to pull starting pitcher Lane Thomas (4-2) after giving up five runs on just 23 pitches over one-third of an inning.
Pitcher Kyle Guidry fared slightly better in relief but allowed four runs in the next 3.2 innings, two of which came off a two-run homer by Town.
Zachary had two players finish one hit from completing the cycle. Town needed a triple and senior second baseman PJ Cannon, who hit a home run to leadoff the second inning, needed a double.
Sandifer said his team’s nightmarish start may have been due to nerves with so much on the line Friday night.
“At 5-0, that was one thing, but once it got to nine it was tough,” Sandifer said. “We just didn’t compete well from the plate at the beginning. The first inning kind of set the tone for us offensively.”
Walker got a few runs back in the later innings after Zachary removed Blanchard (5-1) from the mound.
Blanchard allowed only three hits and struck out four on an efficient 43 pitches through four innings.
But once Zachary coach Jesse Cassard decided the Broncos had a comfortable enough lead for him to put in the remaining seniors for their final home game of the regular season, Zachary couldn’t maintain its white-hot start.
Walker scored four runs in the last two innings, including a sixth inning where the Wildcats loaded the bases with no outs.
“Joey was phenomenal, but we wanted to get some seniors in,” Cassard said. “We just had a little off night, but it was nice to have a cushion being up nine runs.
“We almost 10-run ruled them, and we let them off the hook, but I’m still proud of them anyway.”