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Baseball Battles Toward Section Final Appearance
Escalon has to win one out of two games with Capital Christian today, Wednesday, May 23 to advance to the Section final.

Game one is scheduled at 4 p.m. and a win there would give the Cougars a two-game sweep of Capital Christian.

If CC takes the early game, the two will face off in the third game in the best of three series, with Escalon taking the first contest this past Saturday, May 19.

The Trans-Valley League champion Cougars dispatched Bret Harte in the opening round on Thursday, 16-2, and then took game one against Capital Christian by a 10-3 verdict.

Opening the playoffs with Bret Harte, Escalon got a run in the first on an RBI single from Matt Valencia, after Josh Miguel reached on a single, Gino Franceschetti put down a sacrifice bunt and Patrick Mulry ripped a double. Trey Balber also had an RBI single but Bret Harte was able to tie it with a two-out double, drawing even until Escalon erupted for eight runs in the third.

"They all came with two out," coach Greg Largent said of the third inning uprising. "The big blow was a Matt Roberson two-run triple. Bret Harte also walked in two batters and we took advantage of an error."

Six more runs in the fourth scored with two outs, with key hits a Mulry RBI triple, singles from Matt Valencia and Robbie Steves and Balber crushing a ball to left field for two RBIs.

"Matt Valencia got the start, he went five innings, struck out nine, allowed three hits and walked one," said Largent. "That win got us into the series with Capital Christian, they had beaten Calaveras."

Both teams entered the semifinal best two-out-of-three series with 24 wins.

"It's a case where the two best teams are on the same side of the bracket," Largent said. "Capital Christian is very fast, they do a lot of running. They had a single, stolen base and another single and they went up 1-0 on us."

Escalon didn't allow the lead to last long, as they took control in the bottom of the second.

Valencia doubled, Steves was hit by a pitch and Balber had a two-RBI double.

After an out, Nathan Chunn had a two-RBI single, Phillip Kimble singled and Miguel was hit by a pitch. Franceschetti reached on an error, which scored two runs.

"We had scored eight before it was over and took an 8-1 lead," explained Largent.

Two more Capital Christian runs in the sixth made it 8-3 but the Cougars got some insurance in the sixth.

"With two outs, Franceschetti singled, Mulry singled and then there was a two-base error," said Largent. "We ended up with a 10-3 win."

The coach gave the ball to Brent Montgomery to start the series and said he didn't disappoint.

"He had his best outing of the year, he came through with flying colors, kept the ball down, held runners close, varied his delivery to the plate," Largent noted.

Montgomery got the win, pitching six strong innings, and Chunn came on for one inning of relief.

"We played error free in both (playoff) games," Largent said.

On the other side of the bracket, Hilmar took a one-game lead on Dixon in their best of three series. Escalon and Capital Christian will go at 4 p.m. today and, if needed, the third game will be about 7:30 p.m. tonight, May 23, starting a half-hour after the finish of game one.

If it all falls right, there will be an all-Trans-Valley League Section final, with the Cougars facing off against the Yellowjackets.

"That would be a war," Largent said, noting that Hilmar defeated Escalon in the football Section final and, with many of the same athletes now playing baseball, the Cougars would love the chance to return the favor.

Before then, though, they have to get past Capital Christian.

"I'm proud of the boys," Largent said. "We clinched (league) early and they've played a lot of games that didn't really mean much ... they have sure stepped it up at the right time."