WALKER – With the way Walker’s batting order unfolded for the bottom of the seventh inning, the Wildcats grew increasing younger with each player.
By the time Walker loaded the bases with no outs against Denham Springs’ fire-balling closer Cade Doughty, the Wildcats faced the prospect of trying to win an intense District 4-5A encounter with a freshman at the plate.
Designated hitter Caleb Webb wasn’t overwhelmed by the moment, looping a 1-0 pitch into left field to drive in Camden Carver with the game-winning run for a 4-3 victory Saturday over Denham Springs in a game played at Walker High School.
“At first I was a little nervous to go out there,” admitted Webb, who was followed in the order by freshman Owen Forbes. “All I’ve got to do is just hit the ball. I was just happy. I know they’re one of our rivals. I knew we had to get that win, so I was happy when I did that.”
Webb’s heroics, combined with two-hit relief from winning pitcher Cody King, enabled Walker (9-16, 4-1) to complete the first round of league play atop the district standings.
Denham Springs (13-11, 3-2) fell into a tie for second with Live Oak (19-8, 3-2), while Zachary (19-8, 2-2) is a half-game back.
“We’re still trying to chase some wins,” Walker coach Randy Sandifer said. “It’s great to be in first place but hopefully this gets us inside of 30 (Class 5A power ratings). It was a good high school game and you hate that somebody lost, especially if you were neutral.”
There were three lead changes throughout five innings when Denham Springs threatened to score in the top of the seventh, but King stranded runners at second and third when he struck out Tyler Evans.
“That’s what Randy and I were saying that no matter who lost this one there would be a whole bunch of what ifs for whichever team lost,” Denham Springs coach Mark Carroll said. “We had way too many non-competitive at bats with guys in scoring position. You have to have good starting pitching and defense which we had both of those and timely hits which we did not have. That’s the difference in this game.”
(1-1) actually entered the game tied 3-3 to start the bottom of the sixth inning and retired three of the four batters he faced.
The LSU signee wasn’t so fortunate in the seventh when Walker opened with back-to-back singles from Carver (2-for-3) and Smith and first baseman Dakota Wilson (2-3, double) reached base for the third time in the game with a four-pitch walk, loading the bases for Webb.
Carroll thought the matchup between the senior Doughty and freshman Webb was tipped in his team’s favor.
“We threw one a little closer to the plate than we wanted to,” Carroll said. “That’s baseball. I’ll take that matchup seven days a week and we’ll take our shots with it.”
Denham Springs scored twice without the benefit of a run-scoring hit in the top of the fifth to erase a two-run deficit and pull even at 3-all.
The Yellow Jackets had runners on the corners in Reese Smith at third and Doughty at first when Doughty drew a throw while breaking for second base on the first pitch to Noah Juan.
Shortstop Camden Carver came across to infield to cut off the throw to second only to lose his footing, enabling Smith to score from third base on the back end of a double steal.
DSHS made it 3-3 after Tristan Duhe drew a two-out walk and David Frye (2-3) singled to deep second base where Walker’s Gabe Inman gloved the ball, but with his momentum carrying him away from the infield Doughty, who was moving on contact, easily scored the tying run.
King, who took over for fellow reliever Christian Cassels in the fifth, pitched around a one-out walk in the sixth before DSHS mounted a threat with one out in the seventh with Juan’s single and Duhe’s walk.
King got Frye to fly out to Grant Edwards in left field before striking out Evans. The Jackets, who had five hits, left nine runners on base, seven of which were in scoring position.
“I focused on just throwing strikes,” King said. “Coach just told me to count outs. When you get the first one, then chase after the next one. I stayed consistent, low and outside and that’s all I had to do, and they just couldn’t hit it.”
Walker had one base runner though 2.2 innings when the Wildcats scored twice on three hits to take a 2-1 lead.
A sharp single to center from Carver provided Walker with its first hit off DSHS starting pitcher Dalton Diez, who then walked Smith.
Wilson tied the game with an RBI-single to left and a hit from Webb into the hole on the left side of the infield glanced off the top of the glove of Juan, who had ranged over from third base, and caromed into shallow left field, allowing Smith to score ahead of Doughty’s throw to the plate.
That turned out to be the first of Webb’s two big hits in his team’s victory.
“He said he wanted it and he got his chance and he proved himself real well right there,” King said of Webb. “The base hits before that were real good too. It just shows that we can play with anybody.”