ZACHARY – Live Oak coach Jesse Cassard wasn’t looking for any sentimental returns in his first trip back to Zachary’s Herty Field.
Three years after coaching the Broncos for the final time in the first round of the Class 5A state playoffs, Cassard was back with one thing on his mind.
Thanks to the right-arm of Tanner Hall, the Eagles were unable to give their first-year coach a memorable experience.
Hall pitched a complete-game 1-hit shutout and Zachary made a three-run second inning stand up in a 4-0 victory Wednesday over Live Oak in a District 4-5A encounter.
“I’m not an emotional person,” said Cassard, who coached for 10 years at Zachary where he guided the Broncos to three Class 4A state championships. “I just wanted to win. I’m just worried about us; trying to stay on our guys. I was pretty locked in to winning a game whether it was them, Denham or Central.”
Zachary’s win forced a three-way tie for second place in District 4-5A with the Broncos, Eagles and Central all with 2-2 records. They trail Denham Springs and Walker, both of whom are 3-1.
Hall carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning when Live Oak’s Cam Dickerson singled to deep second base, successfully crossing first base without a throw.
Hall promptly responded with a strikeout of Lane Hutchinson and got Brant Smith to fly out to Jayden Williams in center field – the first of only two balls the Eagles got out of the infield.
“I don’t think we competed as well,” Cassard said of his team which had faced several top arms this season, ranking Hall among the best. “We had a lot of easy outs before two strikes. Kind of got in defense mode not to strike out.”
To that end, Live Oak made 12 of its outs in pitch counts with three pitches or less. The Eagles grounded out nine times and had eight strikeouts.
“It was one of his better games,” Zachary coach Jacob Fisher said of Hall. “He threw a lot of first-pitch strikes. He got ahead of hitters. He was able to put them away and it starts with a first-pitch strike.”
Live Oak (18-8) had one prime scoring opportunity in the third inning when Collin Martin led off with a walk and Rhett Rosevear was by a pitch.
However, Hall was able to get out the inning, forcing Dickerson to ground out to the right side of the mound where Hall gloved it and threw to third baseman Lane Felder to get Martin at third.
Felder then turned and threw across the diamond to first baseman Dylan Jackson on a close play to get Dickerson, resulting in an inning-ending double play.
The Eagles had five baserunners the entire game, leaving four stranded.
After the double-play ball, Hall retired 12 of the last 14 batters he faced, hitting Hutchinson to lead off the fourth and allowing Dickerson’s infield single.
“He came back on short rest and threw really well,” Fisher said of Hall, who was the losing pitcher in Saturday’s 4-3 loss at Denham Springs. “His fastball was down, and breaking ball was down in the zone. When that happens, good things will happen.”
Zachary, which failed to score in the first after consecutive singles to start, managed to score three times in the second inning without the benefit of a hit.
“That’s baseball,” Cassard offered. “It will be a different story when we play them at our place. That’s the beauty of district. We get to play them again.”
Live Oak reliever Branson McCoy, who took over for starter Jacob Loveland to begin the second inning, loaded the bases on a pair of hit batters and a walk.
The Broncos took a 1-0 lead on Kyle Landry’s run-scoring fielder’s choice and added two more on a two-out throwing error.
McCoy, who needed 29 pitches to get out of the second, settled in thereafter and used only 16 pitches to retire Zachary in order in the fourth and fifth innings.
Ethan Prescott finished up the final two innings for Live Oak, which allowed five hits – two from second baseman Creed David.
The Broncos added a third unearned run in the fifth when Landry scored from third on a throwing error.
“You can’t make errors and you can’t walk and hit guys,” Cassard said. “When you’re facing a guy like him (Hall) there’s not much room for error.”