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Cougars Claim Highway 120 Classic Crown

With three straight wins in pool play, Escalon vaulted to the championship game of its own Highway 120 Classic ... and then defeated Waterford for the title by a 10-0 decision.

Hosting the baseball classic starting Tuesday, June 24 and continuing through Saturday, June 28, the Cougars were in pool play with Central Valley, Bret Harte and Amador. The summer ball team started action on Tuesday with a game against Central Valley.

"We ended up with a 3-2 win in 10 innings," explained coach Greg Largent. "Based on the coin flip, we were visitors, we fell behind 2-0 in the second but then scored two runs in the top of the seventh to tie it."

That sent the game into extra innings and Escalon won it with a single run in the 10th.

In the seventh inning with one out, Nick Largent reached on an error, Aaron Pangilinan singled and Josh Messersmith drove in Largent with a sacrifice fly. Tony Gonzales then reached on an error that allowed Pangilinan to score the tying run.

"In the tenth, we got a leadoff double from Spencer Alcantor," said Largent. "Matt Hudson moved him over with a sacrifice bunt and Josh Miguel had an RBI triple."

The pitching staff then shut down Central Valley in the bottom of the inning to secure the victory.

"It was a nice win," agreed Largent.

Charlie McDonald and Jon Whitesitt each went three innings, Leighton Pangilinan went four and was the winning pitcher, striking out seven.

Thursday, June 26, the Cougars had a doubleheader, kicking off the day with a 4-3 win over Bret Harte. Despite horrible air quality - which sometimes had a haze so thick over Bob Loureiro Field that you couldn't see the scoreboard - the team battled through a pair of contests.

"Leighton Pangilinan had a long homer in the first," Largent said of starting off the Bret Harte game with a bang. "We added three more in the third inning."

With one out, Largent singled, Leighton Pangilinan reached on an error, Derrick DeFreitas drove in a run with an RBI double and Aaron Pangilinan got on base with an error that allowed another run to score. Travis Cardoza then got aboard on an error, with DeFreitas coming in with the third run of the inning.

Bret Harte countered with a run in the third and two in the seventh.

"We got out of a bases loaded jam, Jon Whitesitt did a good job," Largent said of hanging on for the win.

Game two on Thursday was a much easier task, the Cougars' A team exploding for a 13-2 win and putting six quick runs on the board in the first inning.

Singles by Miguel and Alcantor, followed by an error, a hit batter and a two-RBI single by Largent got the scoring started. Aaron Pangilinan and Tony Gonzales also drove in runs with hits. Four more runs were added in the second inning, with Justin Martinez notching an RBI and a combination of walks, hits and errors leading to the other three runs.

"That game went only five innings," Largent said, as the Cougars added more runs to win by virtue of the 10-run mercy rule.

"That put us into the championship game against Waterford, they had won the other pool," Largent explained of facing off with the Wildcats in the Saturday game. "This was a nice way to close it out ... it was a pitcher's duel early, then we beat them 10-0."

Leading hitters in the game were Miguel with a double and single, Gonzales with a single, and Largent and DeFreitas each rapping out doubles.

"Nick went the distance and gave up no runs, two hits and struck out seven," Largent said. "So we closed out our season on a high note.'

The summer ball program saw both the A and B teams for Escalon playing a full schedule. The B team, made up primarily of JV players, lost its final few contests, losing to Hilmar 10-4, Linden 4-0 and battling against a mainly varsity Bret Harte squad, playing well in a 3-1 loss.

For the A team, they played a total of 18 games in June.

"We won 13, lost four and tied one," Largent said. "It was a good experience and it was nice to have two teams ... now it'll be a longtime 'til February."

That's when the baseball teams will start practice at Escalon High for the 2009 Trans-Valley League campaign and having the chance to play some summer ball, he said, will benefit the teams when they get back on the diamond next year.