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Cougar Ace Bounces Back
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It was unlike anything Escalon varsity baseball coach Greg Largent had experienced.

And it's nothing he wants to go through again.

With a Spring Break looming and games anticipated throughout the week in the Windemuth Easter Tournament, the Cougar baseball team was collectively shaken in their opening contest on April 9 when pitching staff ace Matt Valencia was drilled by a line drive.

He was unable to react in time as the ball came roaring back at him, and it struck Valencia on the side of the head, ricocheting off into left field.

"I was out of the dugout quickly but I could already hear him screaming before I even got to the mound," Largent said.

Emergency personnel in the stands watching jumped quickly into action as well, along with the coach from the opposing team, Enochs. Largent said the umpires quickly stopped play and all eyes were on the crumpled form of Valencia.

"We were almost in shock," Largent said of seeing the ball nail the starting pitcher and drop him on the mound.

Valencia was stabilized and taken away to Kaiser Hospital in Modesto for treatment.

"The CT scan came back clear and they had thought of possibly keeping him overnight for observation but he was able to go home," Largent said.

Valencia was told to avoid physical activity for a few days but Largent said his ace was already chomping at the bit to get back on the mound, ready to play as Trans-Valley League action resumes this week.

The varsity team was leading 6-0 when Valencia suffered the blow and the game eventually ended in a 6-6 tie. (See story in Sports, Page A16.)

"It was just a very eerie moment," Largent said, adding that his players had a tough time getting back into the game once Valencia left the field via ambulance.

"Nobody was there ... our thoughts and prayers were with Matt," Largent said. "We know he's a key component of this team ... it was a relief to tell the guys he was going to be okay."

Along with their league games this week, the Cougars have been asked to take part in the 'Showcase Saturday' series of games at Banner Island Ballpark in Stockton. They will face off with Tokay in a 10 a.m. contest on April 21. Admission is $11 and is good for the full schedule of games on Saturday, with all proceeds benefiting the United Way.