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Division I Schools Forge Cougar Connection
0717 Chunn
Above, former Cougar Nathan Chunn is all smiles as he rounds the bases in a home run trot after sending a ball over the fence in the 2013 North-South All-Star game to end his high school career. Times File Photo

A pair of Escalon High School graduates and standout athletes will be continuing their baseball careers at Division I schools.
Matt Valencia, a 2012 graduate and left-handed pitcher, has a full ride to the University of Hawaii. Catcher and 2013 EHS graduate Nathan Chunn has a full ride scholarship to the University of Nebraska.
“I’m so proud of those guys, that was just a special group,” varsity baseball head coach Greg Largent said of the 2012 baseball team that won its third consecutive Sac-Joaquin Section crown. The game featured Valencia on the mound and Chunn at first base to record the final out on a grounder he fielded and took to the bag himself. His primary position, however, is catcher.
“Nathan will be playing for the University of Nebraska Cornhuskers, Matt will play for the University of Hawaii’s Rainbow Warriors,” Largent said.
Escalon played to a nearly perfect record in 2012, ending their campaign on Memorial Day with a hard fought 2-1 victory against Hilmar at Tony Zupo Field in Lodi, ending the year with a 27-1-1 mark and hoisting the Sac-Joaquin Section Division 5 blue championship banner overhead. Other Cougars from that squad are also continuing to play in college, but Chunn and Valencia are in the spotlight with their selection to the D-I schools.
“I think that speaks about the quality of the kids and the quality of athletes they are,” Escalon athletic director Mark Loureiro said. “These two are dedicated athletes in their sport.
“I know as coaches, you get excited to see them moving on and these are both big time schools with big time baseball programs in Division I.”
The Cornhuskers of Nebraska play in the Big Ten Conference, while the Rainbow Warriors are in the Mountain West Conference.
Largent said other players from the 2012 Section champs, including Gino Franceschetti and Patrick Mulry, will be playing for Stanislaus State, with Aaron Pangilinan heading back east for baseball. The group as a whole, said Largent, was focused on doing all the little things right to benefit the team in a big way.
“They played so well together, they were a team, there were no stat hounds,” Largent said. “They understood that the ground ball to advance the guy was just as important as the hit that drove him in.”
Loureiro added that having one athlete from a small, rural high school get a full ride scholarship to a Division I school is notable, two almost unheard of, especially in the same sport.
“Major impressive,” Loureiro said.