By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Cougars Come Out On Top In First Two Playoff Games
Starting off with an easy win over Lindhurst, the Escalon Cougars had to battle to take game one in a best two-out-of-three series in second round Sac-Joaquin Section Division V baseball playoff action against Marysville.

Saturday's victory gives Escalon the chance to advance to the Section final with one more win over the Marysville squad. The teams are scheduled to meet up at 4 p.m. today, Wednesday, May 25 at Zupo Field in Lodi. If Marysville wins the first game, they will play the deciding contest at 7 p.m. and the winner there plays for the blue banner. If Escalon wins the 4 p.m. contest, there will be no game three and the Cougars advance to the finals on Memorial Day, Monday, May 30. Opening up the playoffs on Thursday - a game postponed due to bad field conditions on Wednesday - the Cougars won the game by a final of 12-0 and starting pitcher Matt Valencia took a no-hitter into the fifth inning.

"We were the home team by being the higher seed," coach Greg Largent said.

Escalon scored four runs in the bottom of the second, keys were an RBI double from Valencia, a double from Brandon Shaw and some smart base running by Trey Balber to take advantage of a couple Lindhurst errors to cross the plate. Aaron Pangilinan and Valencia each singled in the third and Pangilinan scored on a passed ball to make it 5-0.

"Then we blew it open in the fifth inning," Largent said of putting the game away, winning on the 10-run rule after five.

Joining the hit parade that inning were Pangilinan with a single, Valencia with his second RBI double of the day, an RBI double from Balber, a single from Shaw.

"We were up 9-0," Largent explained, with two runners on. "Patrick Mulry hit a three-run walk off homer."

That made the final 12-0 and the Cougars rapped out a dozen hits on the day as well. They had one error.

Lindhurst had just one hit, in the fifth, and committed three errors. Valencia struck out eight and walked one. The Cougars also got a standout double play to get out of trouble after the leadoff man walked in the fourth inning.

Big hitters for the Cougars were Pangilinan, Valencia and Shaw, each 3-for-3.

Headed back to Zupo for Saturday's semifinal round contest against Marysville - which advanced with a win over Calaveras in the opening round - the Cougars found themselves in an unusual position.

"We gave up four runs in the first, they had scored four runs, had the bases loaded and we didn't have an out yet," Largent said of the rocky start. "I took a trip to the mound, tried to calm things down."

Pangilinan was on the mound and was able to pull his game together after the quick flurry of scoring, helped by his teammates.

Catcher Balber picked off the runner at third, leading too far down the line, on the next play for the first out, then Pangilinan induced a pop up and a ground out to get out of the inning.

"We minimized the damage," agreed Largent. "Then the bottom of the first, we scored two, we sent a message that we weren't done.'"

Josh Miguel started it off with a triple, Gino Franceschetti walked, Mulry walked and Pangilinan reached on an error, with two runs coming in.

The Cougars added three more in the third to take a 5-4 lead, with a double from Balber, two-run double from Miguel and an RBI single from Mulry in the mix.

"They tied it up on an unearned run in the fourth but in the bottom we added two of our own," Largent explained. "After two quick outs, Packy (Patrick Mulry) tripled and Aaron sent a two-run homer to left center for a 7-5 lead."

One more in the fifth saw Jake Hood, in as a pinch runner, steal a base on a pitch out and come in to score on Shaw's clutch RBI single to make it 8-5. The final was 10-5 for Escalon with two more runs in the bottom of the sixth, back-to-back doubles by Mulry and Pangilinan, followed by an RBI single from Valencia, scoring Ben Sipes, who went in as a pinch runner for Pangilinan. Mulry had earlier scored on Pangilinan's double.

"Aaron went the whole game, seven innings, he had a real rocky start but he settled down and did a great job," Largent said.

At different points, pitchers Brent Montgomery, Shaw and Valencia were all warming up just in case, but Pangilinan was able to put the complete game victory in the books.

The early deficit was unexpected, but not necessarily a bad thing, said Largent.

"It was good for us, I was not sure how they would react," the coach said, noting that he was proud to see his team dig deep and come from behind. "It was a great win for the kids, to take a blow like that early on and bounce back like they did, we've never been behind the eight-ball like that."

Shaw is slated to get the ball for today's contest, with Valencia ready to go if there is a second contest.

Escalon goes in with a 26-3 overall mark and is looking to return to the Section title game to defend the blue banner they brought home a year ago. If they take two against Marysville they will be in the championship on Monday, with a time and place still to be determined.