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Spring Break Baseball Sweep For Varsity Cougars
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Outfielder Tad Dimas, 20, gets ready to fire the ball back in after tracing it down in the outfield during recent action. Backing up the play is Phillip Kimble. - photo by IKE DODSON/THE TIMES

Getting in three games in what should have been a four-game tournament, Escalon’s varsity baseball boys will finish the Windemuth Tournament on Saturday, April 20.

Rain late in the week played havoc with the team’s schedule, but they nonetheless won their way to the championship, and will face off with Turlock in a game at Downey High School in Modesto.

“The championship game has been rescheduled for Saturday, April 20,” said head coach Greg Largent. “We were sorry to see the (Thursday) washout.”

The squad was on a roll, having topped Downey, Modesto and Beyer in the games they did get to play.

Monday at Downey, they defeated the host team by an 8-1 final. The April 1 game saw Escalon taking the field as the home team for the start of the Windemuth Tournament. They jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the first. Phillip Kimble doubled, Tad Dimas walked and Robbie Steves drove in the first run of the game with an RBI single. After Nathan Chunn reached on an error that allowed a run to score, and the runners moved up on a fielder’s choice, Ben Hood lifted a sacrifice fly for the third run of the inning. Downey got one run in the top of the third on a single and double, but did not score the rest of the way.

“Ben Hood went the complete game, got the win,” Largent said. “He had 10 strikeouts, threw 115 pitches, allowed one run, two walks and four hits.”

Escalon added to the lead with two runs in the third, two in the fifth and one in the sixth. Key hits were an RBI single from Chunn, another Hood sacrifice fly and a Chunn double that drove in Raymond Guevara, who had reached on a pinch hit base on balls. Brandon Grogan also put down a successful squeeze bunt to drive in a run.

On the day, Chunn was 3-for-4 and Steves 2-for-3, with solid defense backing up Hood on the mound.

“We got three complete game victories from our pitching staff,” Largent said of the good week for the mound men. Tuesday, it was Alec Nerland’s turn to take the ball, unusual, as he typically comes on in relief.

“It was his first career start, he got out of a couple of jams, had three strikeouts and threw 11 ground ball outs,” Largent said.

Escalon got a 3-2 win, with single runs in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings. Each team only had five hits and the score was tied when Escalon went ahead to stay in the sixth. Grogan ripped an RBI double off the centerfield wall, driving in the game winner. Dimas also made a spectacular catch in the outfield to end the game.

On Wednesday, the Cougars matched up with Beyer, playing at Downey, and shut them out by a 4-0 final.

“Brent Montgomery got the start, kept their hitters off balance all day, he had eight strikeouts, one walk and gave up four hits,” noted Largent.

The game was scoreless until the fifth, with Escalon getting some runs in the top of that frame. Dimas reached on an error and was able to move to third on a ground out. Steves lifted a sacrifice fly to go up 1-0.

“We got three more runs in the top of the seventh, all with two outs,” Largent added.

Singles from Steves, Chunn, Hood (RBI) and a walk to Grogan set up a Luis Estrada walk to drive in a run, then Vince Valenzuela was hit by a pitch to force in one more.

“We played great defense all day, no errors,” the coach said.

In the seventh, a sharp chopper to Nerland on the infield was bare handed by the player, who threw out the runner and helped Escalon claim the win.

Steves was 2-for-3 on the day, Chunn went 4-for-4 and Hood was 2-for-4. The three wins put Escalon into the tournament title game, set for 1 p.m. at Downey against Turlock on April 20. Thursday, when the game should have been played, was a washout.

The Cougars climbed back over the .500 mark overall with the wins this week and will take their undefeated record back into Trans-Valley League play, facing off on the home field today, Wednesday, against Orestimba and traveling to play at Orestimba on Friday. They will take part in the Banner Island Baseball Classic on Saturday, playing at 10 a.m. in a fundraiser game.

“It was a good week, we’re back over .500 and can leave the preseason behind,” Largent said. “The kids got some confidence back.”