NEW ORLEANS — The Masters of Small Ball are headed for the Class 5A state championship game.
Zachary used two well-timed, well-placed bunts, plus a heads-up base running play to fashion all the runs they needed in the sixth inning of a 4-1 victory against Sam Houston in their semifinal game Saturday at Tulane’s Turchin Stadium.
“This is what we do every day,” said Zachary designated hitter Ethan Troth, whose drag bunt single keyed the Broncos’ big inning. “It really paid off tonight.”
Zachary (26-11) will meet Catholic High at 2 p.m. Sunday in the first all-Baton Rouge area title game in the highest classification since 1994, when St. Amant defeated Denham Springs.
Catholic defeated Zachary, 6-3, when the teams met on February 23
“I honestly can’t tell you if that matters any more or not,” Troth said. “We’re playing the biggest game of our lives.
“All of us love each other, and we’re going to play our hearts out.”
Zachary, which won three straight Class 4A titles before moving up to 5A four years ago, had been stymied Saturday through the first five innings despite putting on several base runners, and it was beginning to look like the lone run Sam Houston scored in the first might hold up.
But Kyle Vince led off the sixth with a single to left, and Troth followed with a bunt down the third-base line that Sam Houston third baseman Blake Perrodin couldn’t field in time to get Troth at first.
“He threw it outside, but I just threw the bat at it,” Troth said. “I expected to beat it out, but honestly, that’s the first time all season that it worked.
“I was fortunate that it came up big,”
With runners at first and second, Evan Pace followed with a bunt between third and the mound, and this time Perrodin threw the ball away and pinch runner P.J. Cannon scored from second to tie it.
After Mike McHugh popped up for the first out, Daniel Hodges laid down a drag bunt between the mound and first that Sam Houston pitcher Kameron Esthay couldn’t handle as Troth scored the go-ahead run.
Stephen Babin lifted a fly to deep right-center field that he fielded with his back to the infield. Pace tagged up, and Zachary Coach Jesse Cassard waived him around. Pace narrowly beat the throw to give his team an insurance run.
The Broncos upped their lead to three runs in the seventh off Mason Foote’s pinch-hit single.
“That’s the way we play — scrappy,” Zachary coach Jesse Cassard said. “We do anything just to get a run across, and I was just wanting to tie it when things started happening.
“I was tired of looking at zeroes.”
Sam Houston coach Brad Brock, whose team had beaten Zachary twice earlier this season, said poor bunt defense was the key to his team’s defeat.
“It was atrocious,” he said. “It was fielding and not throwing to first base.
“It was crashing and not even covering second. It’s been a problem for us this year but not this bad. Those were some inexcusable errors.”
Zachary starting pitcher Evan Tidwell had kept his team in the game, allowing only four hits through five innings.
Trent Crowder came on in the sixth and struck out three while giving up no hits and walking two in the final two innings.
“We’ve had a lot of ups and downs this year,” Cassard said. “And a lot of things we tried today didn’t work. “So you go to the other card and it worked out.”