A young varsity Cougars squad, still looking to fit some of the puzzle pieces together, still came up with a pair of wins on the baseball diamond this past week.
Escalon went to Ceres for their first non-league season contest on Feb. 22 and hosted Calaveras in a Saturday morning game, Feb. 23.
“Friday at Ceres we got a 14-5 victory,” head coach Greg Largent said. “We hadn’t been on the field in a while but we swung the bat very well; we pounded out 16 hits.”
Ceres also committed four errors in the first inning and Escalon jumped on that opportunity, scoring six runs in the first.
Cole Gilbert had three hits and three RBI on the day, while Lucca Dutra was 2-for-4 and just missed a home run, with a long drive bouncing off the top of the outfield wall. Clayton Ferreira was 3-for-4 on the day.
“Luke Anderson had a great debut with a double and a triple,” Largent noted.
Gilbert got the start on the mound, going three innings and allowing just one hit, striking out two and walking four. Carson George came on and pitched in relief, a strong outing that showed him scattering three hits and allowing three runs.
“Saturday, we were very sloppy; it was a marathon game that went three-plus hours, two teams that were making mistakes.”
Calaveras got two runs in the first but, Largent noted, to the Cougars’ credit, they answered with two of their own. The back and forth battled continued through the contest, with the Cougars eventually prevailing by a 9-7 final.
“We got the two runs we needed in the fourth,” said Largent. “They came on three walks, then Nash Satnat was hit by a pitch, Cole Gilbert scored on a wild pitch.”
Anderson, a sophomore, got the start and battled some first varsity pitching appearance jitters but also had some strong moments.
“He was amped up, fought through some jams,” the coach noted.
After three innings, he gave way to Ethan Johnson, who made his debut as a varsity player and pitcher, going three-and-a-third.
“He did a great job, struck out three, allowed one hit,” Largent explained. “Then Zach Hearn came in in a crucial spot in the seventh and struck out two.”
Escalon only had four hits in the game, two from Gilbert, who drove in the first four Cougar runs; a double from Dutra and a single from Ferreira.
“We’re young, starting a couple of sophomores, the whole middle infield is new and behind the plate, we’re looking to get Nash (starting catch Nash Satnat) some help,” Largent said. “We’re a little behind because of the weather, but so is everyone else; we just need to be patient.”
A big blow, the coach added, is the loss of senior Anthony LaRossa, injured during football and having to undergo surgery, out for the season. He was expected to take the mound as the team’s number one starter and Largent said they have to fill that hole.
“He’s such a great kid and just a baseball junkie,” said the coach. “He’s in the dugout now, part of the team, and he’s encouraging his teammates, just his presence on Friday, you could just see it lift the team.”
And while LaRossa won’t be on the mound, Largent said his love for and knowledge of the game, combined with his enthusiasm for the team, could be crucial as the young Cougars wind their way through the campaign.
A good first game saw the JV Cougars take a 13-8 win on the road against Ceres on Friday.
“It was really close all the way through, we scored five runs in the top of the sixth and were able to pull it out,” said coach Ken Baptista. “We had 16 hits, the offense really pulled us up.”
Ty Harris went 3-for-5 with a run batted in, Alex Guevara was 3-for-3 with a run batted in and newcomer Mark-Anthony Valente went 3-for-4 with an RBI.
Josh Miller got the win in relief, pitching three innings and striking out five.
Saturday, on the home field, it was a completely different story.
“We lost 15-4,” Baptista said. “We only had five hits, we’re going through some early season struggles still.”
Valente was 2-for-3 with a run batted in and Harris went 2-for-4.
“We’re a pretty young team,” Baptista added. “It will be a growing year for us, we will progress from here.”
Weather permitting, the teams are scheduled to play at Sierra in Manteca on Wednesday, Feb. 27 and then host Downey at home on Friday, March 1.