Zachary’s efficient use of small ball nets 5-1 victory

WALKER — Small ball paid big dividends for Zachary High on Saturday afternoon in a District 4-5A baseball game at Walker High.

The Broncos twice set up scoring chances with sacrifice bunts, and used another bunt to push across a third run on their way to a 5-1 win over Walker.

Walker (17-12, 4-4) stranded six runners in scoring position as the defense of Zachary (22-9, 6-2) repeatedly put the Wildcats in need of two-out hits.

“We’ve moved guys around throughout the year,” Zachary coach Jesse Cassard said about his team’s defense.

Cassard singled out the efforts of shortstop Cade Milazzo and third baseman Gabe Hannum.

“We put a senior at shortstop, and he’s been great. Our defense is getting comfortable.”

Broncos right-hander Evan Tidwell (8-1) went the distance and consistently found the strike zone. He threw 84 pitches, 58 for strikes, but had just one strikeout.

“(Tidwell) throws four pitches for a strike, and his confidence is pretty good,” Cassard said. “Walker has done a great job (hitting). In two games (against the Broncos), they’ve only struck out twice, so our defense was ready to make plays.”

Walker started Chandler Elvir (0-2) in the hopes his defense as well as his pitching might provide an advantage. Elvir also started in a 2-1 loss at Zachary on April 9.

“(Elvir) is a little more athletic off the mound,” Walker coach Randy Sandifer said. “It helps control (Zachary’s) bunting and their running game. He’s done a great job in the two outings.”

Elvir found trouble in the first inning, hitting Stephen Babin with a 1-2 pitch to open the game.

Cade Milazzo’s sacrifice bunt moved Babin to second, and he scored when Walker shortstop Logan Rogers threw wildly to first after Andre Weber’s grounder.

The score stayed 1-0 until the fifth when Babin led off with a single through the left side. Milazzo again bunted Babin down to second, and he scored on Hannum’s single to right.

Weber, who reached first when he was hit by a pitch, went to third on the play. Kyle Vince’s push bunt up the first-base line scored Weber, giving Zachary a 3-0 lead after 4½ innings.

“That’s typical Zachary,” Sandifer said. “It’s one thing to play a physical game, but when you play Zachary, the game’s as much above your shoulders as it is anything else.”

Elvir started Walker’s only scoring rally with a one-out single in the bottom of the fifth. Rogers followed with an infield single, and both runners moved into scoring position on a passed ball.

Dalton Yucesoye’s groundout scored Anthony Sunde, a courtesy runner for Elvir, but Tyler Lockhard fouled out to first base stranding Rogers at third.

In the sixth, Zachary got the run back on Babin’s two-out home run over the left-field wall. The Broncos took advantage of a Walker fielding error in the seventh to push across their final run.

Vince stroked a one-out single to center, and pinch runner Trey Leiva stole second. Rogers and Elvir switched positions, but Elvir couldn’t handle Evan Pace’s two-out grounder off of Rogers allowing Leiva to score from second.

Walker’s missed chances started in the first when Rogers’ singled, and reached third with one out. A shallow fly to center, and a groundout stranded him there.

Elvir singled with one out in the third, and took second on Tidwell’s balk. A grounder got Elvir to third, where he was left after a fly out to end the inning.

Lockhart led off the fourth with a double off the left field wall. He was thrown out trying to take third on Landen Leblanc’s grounder, but Bryce Brown followed with a single. Two grounders ended the threat for Walker.

“The bottom line is we had opportunities,” Sandifer said. “I’m not disappointed in the effort.

“A hit here or a hit there, and the end of the game probably plays a little different.”