During its Class 5A quarterfinal series a year ago, Zachary’s season ended abruptly.
The top-seeded Broncos lost their best-of-three series to District 4-5A rival Central, which proceeded to win the state championship.
Zachary finds itself in a similar situation this weekend as it plays host to West Monroe in a best-of-three Class 5A quarterfinal series. The Broncos are not the No. 1 seed this year, but they do have homefield advantage for the series which starts Friday at 6:30 p.m.
Zachary is riding an 11-game winning streak heading into the series against the Rebels. Three of those victories came in the playoffs – one against Walker and two against East Ascension.
However, this season has not gone smoothly for the Broncos.
The district portion of Zachary’s schedule opened with two losses to Walker and Denham Springs. But the Broncos have not been beaten since the setback against the Yellow Jackets on March 30.
“We went through a stretch where we lost five of ten games,” Zachary coach Jacob Fisher said. “After losing to Denham Springs, the guys came together. There was a team meeting.
“The seniors stepped up at practice,” Fisher said. “Everybody started to do the little things. The locker room changed everything. Everybody is now on the same page.”
The Broncos (28-8) have made this successful run without the services of shortstop/pitcher Collier Cranford, who signed with LSU. Third baseman Brady Hernandez, who played shortstop when Cranford was on the mound, has been a more than adequate replacement.
“Losing Collier was huge both in the lineup and on the mound,” Fisher said. “He was a vocal leader on the field. Brady has done a very good job stepping in for Collier. Brady was our backup shortstop, so he had to learn two positions. Brady has taken over the role nicely.”
Fisher identified four players who have led Zachary at the plate during the past month – outfielders Keilon Brown and Jayden Williams, catcher Alex Milazzo and designated hitter Maverick McClure. The Broncos’ top pitchers are Tanner Hall and Zack Farr, who have combined for 19 of their 28 victories.
Fisher is somewhat knowledgeable about West Monroe, which dropped a 7-4 decision to Zachary in March. He understands that it will be a challenge for the Broncos to advance to the Class 5A tournament in Sulphur.
“West Monroe has a lot of really good position players,” Fisher said. “They are young on the mound, but they have gotten better as the year has gone on. Their coaches teach the game the right way. West Monroe has been a successful program.
“If our pitchers fill up the strike zone against West Monroe, we will have a good opportunity to win the series,” Fisher said. “Next, our defense has to play behind our arms. Then, hopefully we can generate some offense.”
Zachary displayed some power hitting in its two-game sweep of East Ascension. The Broncos hit four home runs in the series. Prior to last weekend, Zachary had fewer than ten home runs for the season.
“We swung the bats pretty well last week,” Fisher said. “We capitalized on the mistakes they made. There was some adrenalin with our guys because of the crowd. We hit four balls out of the park. We only had eight or nine home runs on the year.”
Fisher was not happy with his team’s defense in the first game of the series when it committed five errors. Hall threw a no-hitter despite the spotty defense.
“The five errors are something we have to clean up,” Fisher said. “At least we made no errors Saturday after the five errors on Friday. I still think we have not played our best ball. We had the errors Friday and a few base-running mistakes Saturday.
“This weekend is a different situation from last year,” Fisher said. “We had already played Central three times. We have only played West Monroe once. So, we are not as familiar with them. The message to the players is to continue to trust the process.”