(Rick Hickman / American Press)
Last Modified: Saturday, May 11, 2013 11:26 PM
NEW ORLEANS — Sam Houston was undone by the bunt, giving up three hits and committing an error on another as Zachary beat the Broncos 4-1 Saturday in a Class 5A semifinal.
Zachary advanced to play Catholic-Baton Rouge, a 3-1 winner over West Monroe, in today’s championship game.
Trailing 1-0, Zachary (26-11) scored three runs in the top of the sixth inning. Kyle Vince singled to left to lead off the inning and Ethan Troth followed with a bunt single. The next batter, Evan Pace laid down another bunt down the third-base line that resulted in a throwing error that allowed the tying run to score.
After a popout, Daniel Hodges reached on a safety squeeze bunt, scoring Troth to make the score 2-1. Stephen Babin then drilled a long fly ball into the right-center field alley that Broncos outfielder Tanner Helms ran down and caught for the out, but Pace tagged up at second and went all the around to score, narrowly beating the tag at the plate.
Sam Houston (26-10) head coach Brad Book twice left the dugout to argue close calls, first on the Troth bunt hit, then again on the play at the plate.
“I thought (starting pitcher Kameron Esthay) did a great job, scattering out hits, competing,” Book said. “I really think we did some things defensively well today, but our bunt defense was atrocious today. It was fielding it and not throwing it to first base. It was not crashing, it was not covering from second base. I felt we got (Troth) out at first base but the umpire disagreed with that. That was a great bunt, but the other bunts, we didn’t cover first, we didn’t crash from first early in the game.
“It has been a problem for us at times, not to the whole collapse that we had. There were some inexcusable mistakes that we made today, things that guys would not let slip that did — being late on coverage and being late to charge. It was tough on us because we had a kid who had not played first base all year out there because (first baseman/pitcher) Peyton McLemore is dealing with some problems with his knee. He is having a hard time planting, moving and swinging.”
Zachary added an insurance run in the sixth when Mason Foote delivered a pinch-hit, bases-loaded single. Sam Houston reliever Austin Gordon forced a double play to end the inning.
Zachary reliever Trent Crowder pitched two scoreless innings of relief to earn the save. Starter Evan Tidwell allowed four hits and one run in five innings.
Cliff Reid led off the game with a single, moved to second on a wild pitch, to third on a throwing error and scored on a fielding error on a Blake Perrodin ground ball.
“I thought we put good cuts on him early in the game,” Book said.
“I felt like, the first inning, it was going to be a game where we hit some hard ground balls,” Book said. “The second inning, we hit some line drives that were caught. I thought we were going to be fine, then he started establishing his breaking ball better and it gave him a much better chance. He did a great job. Once he found the breaker, he had a plan.”
Zachary generated plenty of traffic with seven base runners over the first four innings, including three that reached third base.
However, Sam Houston catcher Andrew Bryan picked off a runner at third to end the second inning and another was thrown out attempting to advance on a grounder to Esthay in he fourth.
Andrew Weber and Troth had three hits each to lead Zachary. Reid had two hits for Sam Houston.
Book said reaching the tournament was a landmark occasion for the program.
“To make it here, in our second year in 5A, to make it to the state tournament, to make it to the semis I think is a huge stepping stone for us that these kids were able to do for us,” he said.
“In order to come here and win it, you have to keep coming here. I think that has been said a thousand times by a thousand people, but that is the main thing. You kind of break down that barrier coming here, you get to see the sights, the smells, the sounds and the intensity of what you have to do when you get here.”