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Cougars Closer To Clinching TVL Baseball Title
Two games, same opponent, two vastly different contests.

Both, however, were victories for Escalon as the varsity baseball boys topped Ripon in a 6-4 game on Wednesday and in a 15-0 shutout on Friday.

"We stranded a lot of runners, had opportunities to score," coach Greg Largent said of the Wednesday game at Ripon. "We weathered the storm, came away with the win."

Escalon actually got on the board early, striking with a pair of runs in the first. Josh Miguel reached on an error and stole second, then Spencer Franceschetti knocked him in with a single. After Franceschetti stole second, Nick Largent ripped an RBI single to make it 2-0.

"So we were up 2-0 with no outs, Patrick Mulry walked and both those runners got stranded," said Largent.

Host Ripon ran into much the same problem, though, leaving runners on base early.

"They had the bases loaded in the first, two on in the third, we kept getting out of jams," agreed Largent.

In the top of the fifth, Escalon put four more runs on the board to take what seemed like a comfortable 6-0 lead.

Mulry was hit by a pitch, Derrick DeFreitas walked and after one out, Matt Valencia crushed a three-run homer to make it 5-0.

"We needed that, it got us going," Largent said of the round tripper.

Travis Cardoza then doubled and after two outs, Miguel walked, Franceschetti was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Largent worked out a walk, pushing another run across for the 6-0 advantage.

"They had the bases loaded in the fifth, we got out of the jam," Largent explained, with a short to second to first double play keying that defensive effort.

Ripon got back into the game in the sixth, using three singles and a couple of Escalon errors to put four runs on the board. The bases were loaded with two outs when Largent made the pitching change, lifting a tired Justin Martinez and bringing Valencia in to the mound. As part of the change, James Hill moved from left field to right field and was immediately tested, with the next batter driving the ball deep with the bases loaded.

"He made an over the shoulder catch in right field just before he hit the wall," noted Largent. "He was fighting the wind and the sun, it was a textbook play."

Escalon didn't score in the seventh but Ripon threatened, the game ending on a strikeout with two runners on base.

The Cougars had six runs on 11 hits and four errors, leaving 12 on base. Ripon had four runs, eight hits and two errors.

Escalon was undermanned a bit in the game, with Aaron Pangilinan sitting out after having his wisdom teeth pulled, Brandon Shaw on the bench with a non-baseball injury, and Trey Balber thrown out after heaving his helmet following a strikeout.

Nick Largent had to suit up to go behind the plate after Balber was tossed, Logan Stewart went in to play third.

"Everybody chipped in," Largent said.

Martinez got the win for five-and-two-thirds innings, Valencia went one-and-a-third for the save. Martinez scattered eight hits and struck out four. Miguel and DeFreitas were each 2-for-3, Mulry and Cardoza 2-for-4 and Valencia had the home run.

Friday was a little easier, as the Cougars were home to host Ripon and steamrolled the Indians in five innings, 15-0.

"For whatever reason, the kids are comfortable at home," Largent said.

Balber had to sit out a one game suspension for unsportsmanlike conduct, putting Largent back behind the plate. Valencia pitched and came away with the complete game victory.

Escalon had one run in the first, three in the second, two in the third and nine in the fourth. Big hits were a sacrifice fly RBI by Mulry in the first, a three-run homer from Miguel in the second and RBI singles from DeFreitas and Cardoza in the third.

"In the fourth, we got nine and sent 13 batters to the plate," Largent said.

Keying the inning were a two-run homer from Largent, RBI double from DeFreitas, RBI singles from Valencia, Cardoza and a pinch-hit RBI single from Hill. Franceschetti had an RBI ground out and Largent and Mulry each had a bases loaded walk to drive in a run.

Valencia went five innings, allowing just two hits, striking out three and walking three.

Ripon had only one serous scoring threat.

"In the fourth they had the bases loaded with no outs, there was a grounder to Matt and he threw to the plate for the out, then we got a 6-4-3 double play, our middle is so solid," Largent said.

Escalon had 12 hits and three errors on the day. Ripon had two hits and one error.

The Cougars ended the week at 12-1 in Trans-Valley League pay.

"We've clinched at least a co-championship," Largent said.

They were scheduled to have their final home game on Tuesday, May 11 after The Times went to press, hosting Ripon Christian. They will play at RC today, May 12, for the regular season finale.

"We need to get at least one win over them and if get that, we are the number one seed (from the TVL) and will open with the number two seed from the Mother Lode in the playoffs," explained Largent.

Escalon entered the week at 20-2, marking the sixth straight year the varsity boys have won 20 or more in a season.