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Cougars Fall To Lions In Section Championship
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Down 5-0 before they even came to bat, Escalon's varsity Cougars just couldn't find a way to climb out of the hole against defending Section champion Linden.

They fell in the Monday, May 30 contest by an 8-1 decision, taking baseball runner-up honors to the Lions in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV championship game.

Linden, completing a perfect season with the win, jumped on starter Peter Krumeich early, hitting him hard.

"I don't know, I felt good coming in," said Krumeich, who gave up five runs in the top of the first. "I guess I was leaving stuff over the plate...they hit everything I threw."

Linden hit with authority, their balls finding plenty of space between the outfielders to fall in during the early going. A few singles, a double, a walk and a squeeze bunt put the Cougars in the hole, with Linden rapping out seven hits in the first inning. Grant Goedhart came on in relief of Krumeich with one out and the bases loaded, got the next batter on a strikeout and catcher Ross Brayton caught the runner on second out of position, the tag going on for the third out of the inning.

But the five-run deficit proved to be too much to overcome.

"It's tough to get out of a deep hole and that was quite a hole," admitted coach Greg Largent. "We tried to stay positive."

Escalon was held in check by Linden starter Leroy Hunt, who allowed just one run on three hits. The only run for Escalon came in the fourth, with Scott Sand reaching on a single, moving over on a single by Brayton and coming in to score on an RBI single from Phil Parrish.

Linden put the finishing touches on in the top of the sixth, Hunt helping his own cause with a two-out, two-run homer over the 378-foot mark in center field.

"They came out swinging," added Largent. "They're not 26-0 for nothing."

Escalon had two errors in the championship game, with Linden connecting for 14 hits.

"We struggled in the first inning," admitted Brayton. "They were an experienced team, have one of the longest winning streaks in California...but we're young, we'll have nine guys coming back next year."

Escalon went down in order in the bottom of the first and second, with their first runner getting on to open the third. Jared August was hit by a pitch, but Hunt mowed down the next three hitters, striking out the side.

The Cougars got on the board in the fourth to avoid the shutout.

"There were some positives," Largent said, noting they did score and had some nice defensive plays on the day as well. "We'll carry that into next year and see what happens."

Escalon faced off against Linden in the Monday final by defeating Pioneer in a two-game series May 23 and 24.

Winning the opener in their best two-out-of-three Section semifinal series against Pioneer of Woodland on Monday, May 23, the Cougars needed a marathon to do it.

They took the contest, 11-7, in 11 innings and rapped out a monstrous 22 hits in the game.

"We were up 5-2 going into the bottom of the sixth, then they scored four runs with two outs and all of a sudden, we were down 6-5," said Largent.

Escalon jumped out with two runs in the top of the first to take the early lead, but Pioneer answered back with two runs in their half of the frame. Single runs for Escalon followed in the third and fourth, and one more in the sixth for what appeared to be the comfortable 5-2 lead.

But the wheels came off with two down in the sixth and the young Pioneer team took the one-run lead.

Still, Largent said his players knew not to panic, not to get counted down and out.

"We went through every possible emotion," Largent admitted. "It was a devastating sixth but what these guys learned a long time ago was don't die without a fight...we were in dire need of something to happen."

In the seventh, the Cougars stayed alive, tying the game at 6-6.

Brayton doubled, Jordan Ramirez went in to pinch run and scored on a Krumeich double. Travis Hooks went in to run for Krumeich and got caught on a pick off play, just ahead of a double by Parrish. Despite losing the chance to take the lead, Largent said the team was satisfied with tying it up, then had to hold off Pioneer in the bottom of the seventh.

Goedhart, one of the Cougars' 10-game winners, started and ran into trouble in the seventh. He left with the bases loaded and one out, Krumeich coming on in relief.

August stabbed a ball with a backhand grab on the first batter to face Krumeich and threw a strike to catcher Brayton to get the force out at home. Krumeich then struck out the next hitter to send the game into extra innings.

Escalon put one run on the board in the eighth, but Pioneer tied it up again. The teams battled through the ninth and the 10th in scoreless fashion before the Cougars had the big rally in the 11th.

Krumeich got on to start things off, putting down a drag bunt for a single. He moved to second on a passed ball and Parrish doubled to drive him in for an 8-7 lead. After a strikeout, August drove in Parrish with a double and then Anthony Suniga singled to drive in August. A walk to Goedhart was followed by an RBI double from Brian Beeman, scoring Suniga.

With a four-run cushion, Krumeich put away Pioneer in the bottom of the frame, getting the first batter to line out to first and then inducing the second hitter to bounce out.

"He got a strikeout to end the game," Largent said.

Leading hitters in the 22-hit attack were Brayton, with three doubles; Beeman, two doubles and a triple; Parrish and August, each with two doubles.

Goedhart went six innings and allowed eight hits, striking out two and walking one while allowing six runs. Krumeich, in relief, got the win. He pitched five innings, giving up one run on two hits, striking out six and walking three.

That gave Escalon the chance to make the finals with a single game win over Pioneer on Tuesday, May 24. They made good on that chance, dispatching the Pioneer team in a tidy 2-0 contest. Brayton had a double, Largent was 2-for-3 to lead the team offensively.

Hero of the day, however, was Joey Pinasco, who went six-and-two-thirds innings for the win.

"He has paid his dues all year, been a number three starter and hadn't gotten much work, pitching behind Goedhart and Krumeich," explained Largent. "He was down a couple of weeks ago but I told him to stick with it, the time was going to come that I would need him...he came out Tuesday and threw the game of his life, Joey was just marvelous."

He got all the offensive support he would need in the second inning, with a single by Parrish, who then stole second, and an RBI single from Largent. When the Pioneer outfielder misplayed the ball, Largent took second and he came in to score on a single by designated hitter Justin Chandley.

Pinasco, getting stronger as the game went on, struck out four and allowed just three hits. Largent wanted to let him get the complete game but nerves played a role in the seventh inning, with two Pioneer hitters getting on with walks after there were two down in the bottom of the seventh.

"I think he was getting excited, we were all getting excited," said Largent.

Opting to lift Pinasco with two down and the tying runs on board, Largent went back to Krumeich, who came in a struck out the final batter with three pitches, sending the Cougars into the championship game.

With the season finale loss to Linden, the Escalon varsity compiled a 24-5 mark for the year.