Zachary’s 2018 baseball season came to an abrupt end.
Seeded No. 1 in the Class 5A playoffs, the Broncos were expected to claim their first state championship in the state’s highest classification in Sulphur last May.
However, Zachary did not reach the state tournament. No. 8 seed and defending Class 5A champion Central took two of three games from the Broncos in the quarterfinals. Central went on to repeat as state champions, while Zachary came up short despite finishing with a 35-4 record.
Jacob Fisher, who is in his third season as Broncos coach, acknowledged that not bringing home a state championship had an effect on the entire Zachary community.
“The loss to Central was disappointing for the whole (baseball) program,” Fisher said. “It bothered the whole athletic department. We were on such a high. It was so unreal to realize the season was over.”
Losing that quarterfinal series has carried over to the 2019 season.
Fisher has dissected what needed to be done for the Broncos to capture their first state title in baseball since 2009 when they were the Class 4A champions.
“We’ve been (deep in the playoffs),” said Fisher, who was an assistant at Zachary for four seasons before taking over as head coach. “We have been one of the best teams in the state. So, what’s been missing?
“We need that great hunger,” Fisher said. “We have to show that fight all the time. You have to will your way to win no matter the situation. That’s what we’re living by this year – having that will to win.”
More than anything, Fisher has been impressed with his team’s attitude going into Tuesday's road game at St. Amant at 6 p.m.
“We have hit the ball well,” Fisher said. “But we have made a bunch of errors. The best thing about the first two weeks has been the grittiness of the kids.”
Zachary (10-3) returns four starters from last season – catcher Alex Milazzo, shortstop Collier Cranford, second baseman Creed David and centerfielder Keilon Brown. Both Milazzo and Cranford have signed with LSU.
Milazzo has been starting since his freshman year, while Cranford is a three-year starter.
The Broncos’ new starters got some significant playing time last year because so many games were decided by the middle innings.
“We didn’t play many close games last year,” Fisher said. “So, last year’s team allowed us to get guys some experience. Our backups got a good amount of at-bats. So, this year will not be like their first time in varsity games.
“We play at one of the top atmospheres in the area,” Fisher said. “The butterflies for our new starters were worked out last season. We are going to make some mistakes, but we will learn from them.”
Juniors Kyle Landry and Jayden Williams will join Brown in the outfield. The Zachary outfield will be comprised of three football players – Brown, a quarterback; Landry, a running back and Williams, a slot receiver. The other two starters are third baseman Brady Hernandez and first baseman A.J. Bailey.
“Both Landry and Brown have been swinging it well so far,” Fisher said. “Landry is a middle-of-the-lineup hitter. Williams started some games last year, but he was mostly a defensive replacement.”
The most concerns for Fisher involve the Broncos pitching staff. Zachary lost its top three pitchers from a year ago – Nathan Keller, Rhett Hebert and Joey Blanchard. Hebert, who played second base when not on the mound, was the Broncos’ top hitter.
Tanner Hall, who was Zachary’s closer in 2018, is now the No. 1 starter. The next two pitchers on the staff are Zack Farr and Cranford. Fisher hopes that Beau Lockhart, who is recovering from Tommy John surgery will be able to pitch in April.
“Hall had 10 or 12 saves in a relief role last year,” Fisher said. “Farr is a transfer from Mandeville, who has fit into things pretty well. Cranford was not able to pitch for us last year. Lockhart has been out 11 months with Tommy John surgery. He missed all last year when he was going to be our No. 1 or No. 2.”