An 11-1 loss, a 12-1 win – the final two games in the Trans-Valley League season were at opposite ends of the spectrum for the varsity baseball Cougars.
“It was an interesting week, kind of the best of times and worst of times,” head coach Greg Largent explained.
That also seemed to sum up the entire season for this year’s varsity Cougars.
The boys opened up the week at home, hosting Hilmar and celebrating Senior Day on Tuesday, April 30. It didn’t go according to script, as the Yellowjackets upended the host team, 11-1.
“We just couldn’t do anything right, we gave up five runs in the first inning,” Largent said.
Carson George got the start on the mound and had uncharacteristic trouble, while the team also had difficulty getting much going offensively. Together, it added up to the lopsided loss.
“We had only two hits, one from Bryce McPherrin, one from Zach Hearn,” said the coach. “The Hilmar pitcher did a great job.”
Escalon’s only run came in the fourth, with a walk to Cole Gilbert, a single by McPherrin that moved Gilbert to third and a ground out RBI from Clay Evans.
Ethan Johnson pitched well in relief of George but there weren’t many bright spots for the Senior Day.
“It was tough on the seniors to go out that way,” agreed Largent.
On Thursday, it was a complete turnaround on the field at Hilmar, with the Cougars taking a 12-1 victory.
“It was a game where we played to our potential,” Largent said. “It made us wonder, where was that all season?”
Rapping out 14 hits, the Cougars scored in every inning but the fifth and were never challenged by the Yellowjackets.
Escalon scored two runs in the first, three in the second, three in the third, two in the fourth and two in the sixth. Hilmar countered with one run in the third and the game went just six innings.
“The boys were smiling, having fun,” added Largent. “It was nice to show we can still play that way but it was also bittersweet.”
Putting it together a little too late to make a run for the playoffs, the Cougars had to be satisfied with the regular season finale win over Hilmar.
Luke Anderson served as a sparkplug in the leadoff position, going 2-for-4 with two RBIs. Gilbert had a pair of doubles, Devin Roberson was 3-for-4 with two RBI, McPherrin and Evans each had two hits.
“Ty Harris was the story of the game, it was his best outing of the season,” Largent said of the sophomore who wanted the game ball in the finale.
He allowed six hits and struck out two.
“You saw why he came up to the varsity, he looked really sharp and didn’t disappoint,” Largent said. “And (catcher) Clay Evans called a great game. We got out of a bases loaded jam in the third allowing just one run.”
The boys were scheduled to close out the season with a final, non-league game at Gregori on Tuesday, May 7 after The Times went to press. Heading in to that contest, they were 10-16 overall and finished TVL play with a 5-7 mark.
For the first time in Largent’s tenure as head coach, there is no postseason for the Cougars.
Largent said the loss of Anthony LaRossa due to injury just before the season had a huge impact, as he was expected to take the mound as the number one starter. He remained on the team and was a vocal leader in the dugout but Largent said his presence on the field was sorely missed.
“It puts everybody in check; how do you deal with adversity?” the coach said.
Some days, it seemed the Cougars were able to rise above but they had just as many games where they couldn’t make the routine plays, couldn’t get the timely hit … and it added up to a tough year, all the way around.
“I guess the law of averages will catch up to you,” admitted Largent. “We’ve had 15 straight seasons of playoff baseball; this is the first time in my career we haven’t made it.”