DENHAM SPRINGS -- Expecting a lot of offensive chances is something that Denham Springs High and Walker have learned to categorize as wishful thinking this season, especially lately.
The Yellow Jackets and Wildcats just don’t have the kind of firepower where they can count on hanging up a slew of crooked numbers this season.
So those chances, when they do come along, fall into the rarest of categories. Like unicorns, four-leaf clovers or seeing Bigfoot. Maybe all at the same time.
It was no surprise then on April 18 that Cade Doughty and Lane Thomas locked horns at North Park in another District 4-5A pitchers’ duel, with Taylor Higgins and Chase Jeansonne coming on for supporting roles.
DSHS got a surprising leadoff single from Brent Huffman in the bottom of the 10th inning and Braden Doughty’s RBI single three batters later to edge Walker 3-2, an outcome emblematic of the two teams’ late-season offensive productivity.
The Jackets (18-11-1, 4-5 District 4-5A) snapped out of a two-game losing streak with their third district win by a single run, the second in extra innings. Walker lost its fifth game in a row since edging Denham 5-2 on April 6.
“We’ve been looking for that timely two-out hit that we didn’t get, didn’t get, didn’t get, didn’t get and then Braden came up in that last situation and had a great at-bat and came through for us,” DSHS coach Mark Carroll said.
“Any time you pitch like we did (Tuesday), you’re going to have a chance. The guys from both teams threw the ball really well against teams that don’t score a lot and that’s how you wind up with a good, tight high school baseball game.”
And in the Wildcats’ case, another oh-so-close loss.
“We had chances in the 7th, 8th and 9th innings,” Walker coach Randy Sandifer said. “We had guys on base and were one hit away and if we come through any of those times, we probably win it. That’s about all you can ask for is to have a chance. We got some and couldn’t come through.”
That was a script both teams contributed to.
Denham was 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position in the first 8 innings, while Walker (13-14, 2-7) was 1-for-9.
The Jackets’ first two runs scored on wild pitches: Cade Doughty in the 1st inning after he led off with a double and was bunted to third and Huffman after he started the 3rd with a pretty bunt single, moved around on Dillon Boyle’s single and got to third on Braden Doughty’s slow roller that Jeansonne made a spectacular scoop-and-throw for the second out from shortstop.
Down 2-0 after 4 innings and without a hit to that point, Walker bolted to life.
Don Paul Smith yanked a leadoff double to right field for the Wildcats’ first hit. After Cade Doughty got Tristan Taylor on a called third strike, Rush Azlin punched an RBI single to right to cut the deficit in half.
Azlin dashed home with the tying run when Jeansonne ripped a second double to left-center field. Jeansonne advanced to third on the throw to the plate with just one out, but Doughty buckled down by getting Hunter Murray on a called third strike and Kyle Guidry on a rollout to second base. Doughty finished with 9 strikeouts in 9 innings, three with a runner in scoring position and four to end an inning.
“We showed signs, but we just can’t do it for three or four of the 7 innings like we need to,” Sandifer said. “Even in that inning, we have another run at third base and we don’t put it in play and get him home.”
The Jackets can relate: They squandered two golden chances to take the lead or win the game until finally breaking through.
Braden Doughty jerked a leadoff double to left field in the 6th inning but Thomas weathered the storm by getting DSHS cleanup batter Brock Batty on a can of corn to center field, Dawson Albin on an infield popup and Layne Didier on a slow roller that he fielded himself.
Denham created another threat in the 7th when Jeansonne -- who took over to start the frame -- hit Higgins with a pitch. Huffman bunted him up a base and Sandifer intentionally walked Cade Doughty. But Boyle struck out and on the third strike in the dirt, Higgins tried to advance and Murray shot him down to end the inning.
Jeansonne plowed through the next six Yellow Jacket batters without a hiccup before Huffman, making a rare start and hitting from the 9-hole, whipped a first-pitch fastball through the middle to start the 10th inning. Cade Doughty laid down a rare bunt and Boyle was walked to bring Braden Doughty to the plate with two on and one out.
Two innings earlier, Jeansonne had tied Braden Doughty in knots with a strikeout, but this time he fell behind 2-and-0 and then 3-and-1.
“I had seen (Jeansonne) before and struck out, so I was looking for a slider early,” Braden Doughty said. “That’s what he came with and threw me two balls, so I got in a fastball count and when he threw one, I didn’t miss it.”
Doughty sent a rocket to deep center field on the 3-and-1 offering and the speedy Huffman scored easily.
A senior who has been a courtesy runner most of the season, Huffman didn’t squander his opportunity to come up big and his leadoff single turned out to be a huge table-setter.
“Coach Caroll gave me the hit signal and I was looking first-pitch fastball,” Huffman said. “I got one and swung hard at it.
“Once Braden got up there in that situation, I knew he’d get the job done. I was expecting a deep pop fly or a line drive. When he hit it, at first I thought it was a blooper, but then when I got to the bag, I knew it was time to get going.”
Added Carroll, “Brent has worked hard all year and hasn’t fussed about how much he’s been out there or not. It’s always the next man up and he stuck to that and did his job.”
With the job done Tuesday, Denham takes aim at a break-even finish in 4-5A play, as well as a chance to bolster playoff seeding, when it closes out the regular season at Scotlandville with a 4 p.m. showdown.
Walker finishes up at home vs. Zachary at 6:30 p.m. Thursday with the Wildcats looking to seize some momentum as they head to the postseason. Walker topped the Broncos 7-0 on March 9 behind a dazzling performance from Thomas but have also lost twice to them – 9-4 in February and 6-0 in a district game on April 8.
DSHS 3, WALKER 2 (10)
Walker 000 020 000 0 -- 2 4 2
DSHS 101 000 000 1 -- 3 5 1
Lane Thomas, Chase Jeansonne (7) and Hunter Murray; Cade Doughty, Taylor Higgins (10) and Braden Doughty. W -- Higgins (4-2). L -- Jeansonne (3-2). 2B: Walker -- Don Paul Smith, Jeansonne 2; DSHS -- C. Doughty, B. Doughty. Records: Walker 13-14, 2-7 District 4-5A; DSHS 18-11-1, 4-5.
Randy Rosetta is Sports Editor of The Livingston Parish News.
You can reach him at (225) 610.5507 or RandyR@LivingstonParishNews.com.
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