In a week that saw the Escalon varsity baseball program get healthy, two wins went on the books as the Cougars stretched their Trans-Valley League mark to 4-0 over the first two weeks of the season.
“It was a great week for the kids,” agreed coach Greg Largent. “They needed that.”
Hosting Ripon on Wednesday, March 27, the host team ended with a 13-3 win, helped along by a masterful pitching performance from senior Brent Montgomery.
“He went six innings, struck out eight, walked three, allowed three runs, threw 100 pitches,” Largent said. “He really has been our go-to guy this year, we know we have a chance with Monty on the hill.”
Montgomery scattered eight hits and kept Ripon off balance throughout the contest. The Indians did get one run in the first and put together a couple of hits and walks for two more runs in the sixth but could not contain Escalon.
After giving up the early lead, Escalon came back with five runs in the bottom of the second to go up 5-1. They never looked back.
In the second, Nathan Chunn doubled, Ben Hood walked and Owen Pangilinan reached on an error. After Luis Estrada reached on an error that allowed a run to score, Montgomery beat out an infield single, with another run scoring. A throwing error led to another run, Tad Dimas notched an RBI ground out and Phillip Kimble lifted a sacrifice fly to round out the five-run uprising.
“In the fourth, with one out, Luis Estrada singled and stole second, Montgomery singled and then Dimas had a sacrifice fly,” Largent said extending the lead to 6-1.
The home team made it 10-1 in the fifth. Kimble got the rally started with a single, Robbie Steves singled and Chunn walked. The bases were loaded and, after two outs, Brandon Grogan ripped a two-run single. Estrada was hit by a pitch and Vince Valenzuela ripped a pinch hit two-RBI single to make it 10-1.
“That was the key point,” Largent said of the game. “Vince’s pinch hit in the fifth made the difference.”
Ripon scratched back for a pair of runs in the top of the sixth.
Escalon closed it out, winning on the 10-run rule, in the bottom of the inning.
Kevin Gregorio reached on an error and Garrett Denczek singled. Steves singled to load the bases, Hood came up huge with a two-run double and then Grogan provided the final hit of the game, an RBI single that drove home the winning run.
With Friday a day off of school, the teams met up again on Thursday, playing back to back contests. This time, Ripon hosted but Escalon again took a lopsided win, putting away the Indians by a 12-5 final.
“We took advantage of some errant pitching,” Largent said, with the Indian hurlers having trouble consistently finding the plate. Several Cougar batters were also hit by pitches.
“They outhit us, 8 to 7, but we got hit four times,” Largent said.
Chunn got the start and went four innings. He was the winning pitcher. Coming on in relief was Hood, who went two innings, and Alec Nerland, who pitched the seventh inning for the save.
The fifth inning was the big one offensively for the Cougars, as they scored eight runs in the frame. After Denczek reached on an error and Chunn walked, Hood beat out an infield single.
“Then we had three straight walks to get runs,” Largent said.
Kimble and Pangilinan had RBI singles on the day for Escalon, Steves beat out a double play ball to notch an RBI and Grogan had an outfield assist on a player trying to score, with Chunn blocking the plate and putting down the tag.
Ripon put some hits and walks together in the sixth to get a couple of runs and threaten, but the Cougars were up to the task.
“Now we’re 4-0 in league and the kids had a hop in their step at batting practice on Friday,” Largent said.
They are busy this week in the Windemuth Tournament, having already been scheduled to play games with Downey and Modesto High. They have a game scheduled at 3:30 p.m. today, Wednesday, against Beyer at Downey High.
League play resumes next week, after school returns from Spring Break.