In what turned out to be a tough week against their Trans-Valley League rival, Escalon’s varsity baseball boys could not find a way to get in the win column against Ripon.
The home-and-home series saw the Cougars host the Indians on Tuesday, then travel for Thursday’s game, with the same outcome, taking the TVL loss.
“It was a rough week for us, there were opportunities in both games to get wins, we just couldn’t close the deal,” admitted Escalon head coach Greg Largent.
Tuesday on the home field, it was a 6-3 loss to visiting Ripon.
“We had scored first, we got a leadoff walk to JoJo Dutra, Hashie Naraghi put down the sacrifice bunt,” said Largent. “JoJo moved to third on a ball in the dirt, then Robby Rickman came through with an RBI single.”
The early run couldn’t have been scripted any better, but Ripon answered back in their next at-bat, cashing in with a single, walk and single, all with two outs to knot it at 1-1.
Escalon took the lead in the third, Zach Abraham coming in on a wild pitch after getting on with a walk, being bunted to second by Dutra and moving up on a Hashie Naraghi ground out.
“So we took the lead into the sixth,” Largent said, adding that the sixth inning has given the Cougars the most trouble in the season so far.
“They scored five runs in that inning and only one ball left the infield,” noted the coach.
Three infield singles, a ground out, pop up, a walk and a bases loaded clearing double were the keys for the Indians.
“We had missed a scoring opportunity in the fifth, we got a leadoff single by Trevor VanBoven but left him there,” noted Largent. “We did score one in the seventh.”
Three singles and an error helped Escalon get the one final run but they couldn’t get any closer, falling 6-3.
“Robby did the pitching, had good stuff, he gave up nine hits, six of them were infield singles, you do that and lose, you know it’s just not your day,” Largent explained. “We played error free, did everything we could do, it was just a terrible punch to the gut the way it ended up.
“We had some opportunities, we just didn’t capitalize when we needed to.”
Getting a chance at some on-the-road redemption just two days later, Escalon battled but again fell short, this time the loss a little tougher to take because they had multiple chances to put the host Indians away.
“We squandered three different leads, we were up 5-0, 7-5, 9-8,” noted Largent. “Then we lost it 10-9 in the bottom of the seventh on a walkoff base hit.”
A Dutra RBI single in the second inning got the Cougars on the board and they added four more in the third, helped out by a Justice Naraghi bases loaded two-run double.
But defensive miscues by Escalon allowed Ripon to climb back into it, as the Indians tied the game a 5-5 in the third. Escalon threw away a double play ball and misplayed a fly ball, helping out their opponents.
Fourth inning action saw the Cougars score two, a Dylan Azevedo bunt plating one run, a Justice Naraghi single driving in the other.
“Then they scored three in the bottom of the inning to take the lead 8-7,” Largent said of the exasperating contest. “It was like a prize fight, we bounced back in the fifth with a two-out two RBI triple from Rickman to go up 9-8.”
Ripon, however, answered with two outs in the sixth, parlaying a walk, single and double into a run to tie it up, 9-9.
“We threatened in seventh but didn’t score,” Largent said.
Ripon loaded the bases in the bottom of the seventh and a single brought the winning run in across the plate.
“We had our chances, needed a close out inning, we just couldn’t do it, Ripon kept bouncing back,” said the coach. “Very frustrating for the boys, especially because of the rivalry with Ripon, I am proud of the way they took it, there were no excuses.”
Giants-Dodgers, Yankees-Red Sox and Cougars-Indians, all major rivalry games but for the Cougars, they just couldn’t solve the Indians this season. Escalon’s record dropped to 2-2 in league play with the losses.
“We grew up this week, we matured as players and a team,” Largent said, putting the losses in perspective and drawing some good out of the experience. “It was rough but hopefully, we can make some noise now, get to the playoffs and see Ripon again.”
This week’s action has the Cougars facing off with the Mountain House Mustangs, a junior-dominated team, as they do not yet have a senior class. Escalon was slated to travel to Mountain House for the opener of the series on Tuesday, April 19 after The Times went to press and host the Mustangs on Thursday, April 21.