DENHAM SPRINGS – Denham Springs and Walker didn’t get a chance to square off during the spring baseball season, but they more than made up for it in Wednesday’s Metro League game at North Park.
Walker rallied from a three-run deficit, putting together a four-run seventh inning to take the lead before holding off a Denham Springs rally in the bottom of the seventh for a 7-6 victory.
“Talking with (Walker coach) Randy (Sandifer) during the game, you play a game like this and you realize what you missed this season – just some of the get-after-it ball games,” Denham Springs coach Mark Carroll said. “I thought their kids did a good job. Their pitchers did a good job, and both teams competed and got after it. That’s what our district does, and when you sit back and you think about missing the spring and missing all our district games and all that, you hate that. You hate that for the kids, but it’s a good, old rivalry there …”
“It was good to see all of it together,” Walker coach Randy Sandifer said, noting Walker has four different teams during the week and three on the weekends during the summer. “I think this is the accumulation of all of our teams and this is where we’re at and having a full team together for the first time. When you split up, you’re limited in options at some points in games. It’s good experience for some guys, but tonight was our first night to try to put our best 9-10 guys out there at one time.”
Walker trailed 4-3 in the top of the seventh when Taylor Jeansonne led off with a double. Pinch runner Chance Reed moved to third on Trevor Matherne’s sacrifice bunt and scored on a wild pitch to tie the score at 4-4.
Camden Carver walked before Denham Springs reliever Larson Fabre was lifted for Reese Smith, who walked Caleb Webb and gave up a double to Gabe Inman down the third-base line to put Walker ahead 5-4.
“I was just trying to get a good pitch to hit,” Inman said. “With runners in scoring position, obviously I wanted to at least move the runners … I was just trying to put something in play and let the guy behind me do it, but it just worked out where I was able to do it.”
One out later, Grant Edwards doubled past third, driving in two runs for a 7-4 lead. Carson Pittman relieved Smith and got out of the inning on a grounder back to the pitcher after Owen Forbes reached on an error.
Denham Springs rallied in the bottom of the inning when Jaxon Adams walked with one out, moved to second on a balk and third on a wild pitch. Smith walked before Carver came on to relieve Edwards.
One out later, Smith took second on defensive indifference, and Kole Rothman followed with a single to center field which drove in the game’s final runs. Rothman was thrown out at second base to end the game.
“You can’t make that mistake in that situation when you’re the tying run,” Carroll said. “That’s one in his memory banks, that one’s got to log in and understand in that situation what he should be doing in reading the throw, and he will. He’s a good kid, and he’s going to learn from it. I tell them all the time you’re going to make mistakes. I’m going to make mistakes. You learn from them and don’t repeat them. That’s what we try to do. That’s our philosophy on that part.”
Walker scored the game’s first run in the top of the first after Spencer Murray drew a two-out walk and scored on Inman’s triple to left-center field.
Denham Springs knotted the score in the bottom of the second when Job Norgress led off with a triple and scored on Cameron McPherson’s double.
The Yellow Jackets took the lead with a three-run fourth after Bill Clement led off with a walk, Norgress followed with a bunt single, and after McPherson’s sacrifice bunt, a run scored on Pittman’s infield single, which bounced off the mound and went straight into the air.
One out later, Braden Hand’s single down the third-base line scored two runs for a 4-1 lead.
“This week we’ve gotten better at the plate overall than we were last week, so we’re making progress – getting some at-bats, and as long as they’re making progress and getting a little bit better,” Carroll said. “We had a few instances tonight where there were some pitches we shouldn’t have gone after in that count, in that situation, where runners were, and that’s a learning process, and that’s the teaching we’re trying to do …”
Walker rallied for two runs in the fifth on Webb’s two-run double after Fabre walked Matherne and Carver with two outs. Fabre, who pitched 3.1 innings in relief of Denham Springs starter Carter Holstein, struck out Murray looking to end the inning. He also struck out Cameron Crow looking to end the top of the sixth.
“I thought Larson did a good job, definitely,” Carroll said. “He’s improved from his first couple of times he threw this summer, and he’s working on some things and getting better. I think he’s going to be a big plus on our staff next year. I really do.”
Casey Bryant gave up six hits, four runs, a walk and struck out three in five innings as Walker’s starter.
“I thought Casey Bryant pitched very well,” Sandifer said. “This is the first time he’s started for them (Walker’s Gold team). He’s kind of been my No. 1, so he’s had to pitch the big games for the Green team, which is kind of the second team or what have you. It was big for him to step up and step his game up.
“We’re really running two varsity teams, so the pitching has really doubled, so each team has got about three or four guys that are returning, so we’re trying to build a stable with about eight to 10 guys in it, and these are the games you’ve got to show that you’re one of those guys,” Sandifer said.