Meeting up with an old nemesis, the Escalon varsity Cougars baseball team once again found themselves on the wrong side of a final score against Capital Christian.
In a battle of the Cougars in Sac-Joaquin Section Division 4 play, Capital Christian knocked Escalon out of the postseason with a 6-4 win on Tuesday, May 22. The game was played at Sac City College and ended the 2018 season for the baseball boys.
“We gave it a great run; we just fell a little short,” said Escalon head coach Greg Largent. “They’re solid again … we thought we might elude them but they got moved to Division 4, we got moved to Division 4.”
Last year, the teams met in the Sac-Joaquin Section final for D5 and Capital Christian took the win, 6-2, at Tony Zupo Field in Lodi on Memorial Day.
Largent pointed to the defensive efforts of the Capital Christian centerfielder as taking away some sure hits and likely some runs in the May 22 contest, assuring the Sacramento-area Cougars the right to continue on in the playoffs.
“The first catch was kind of a Willie Mays grab, he turned his back on the ball and made the over the head catch, Lucca Dutra hit it 385 feet, a foot from the wall,” Largent explained. “For our last out, Colton Lowney hit a ball into the gap and he ran it down … you just have to tip your cap to a great player there.”
Escalon won the toss and was the home team for the Tuesday contest; the teams met because both had lost previously and the winner of the May 22 game got to continue on.
The final was 6-4 in favor of Capital Christian, which then went on to post a 24-0 thrashing of Woodland in the semifinals. The Capital Christian Cougars, going in as the number five seed, played their way to the Section crown once again, defeating top seed El Dorado in two games on Monday to win the crown.
Escalon, meanwhile, was able to take the lead in the bottom of the first inning of their contest against Capital Christian, with a strikeout followed by four straight walks, with Zach Abraham getting an RBI for his bases loaded walk. But that was all they could muster, despite having the bases loaded with only one out.
Capital Christian tied it up in the second and it stayed 1-1 through the sixth in the nailbiting contest.
In the top of the sixth, Capital Christian put three runs on the board to take a 4-1 lead, with an RBI triple and a two-run homer to left field. Lowney made a nice diving catch in that inning to save a run, Largent added.
The Cougars battled back with a pair of runs in their half of the frame, including a double from Lowney and a couple of Capital Christian miscues to make it a 4-3 game.
In the seventh, Capital Christian got a leadoff single but the runner was cut down by Satnat, throwing a strike to Lowney at second for the tag. After the next batter flew out, Capital Christian had two outs and no one on, then ripped a triple and a two-run homer to extend the lead to 6-3.
Escalon did not go quietly, however, threatening in their final at bat.
“Paul Ayala led off with a home run to make it 6-4,” said Largent. “Then Cole Gilbert singled, Bradley Hagglund went in as a pinch runner and Zach Abraham reached on a fielder’s choice.”
That made it one out with a runner on first, followed by the back-to-back spectacular catches by the centerfielder to put the game away.
“We did everything we could, we got the tying run to the plate,” Largent noted.
There were plenty of positives, not only in the final game, but also during the season for the varsity squad.
Estephan Salcedo made some great catches in centerfield in the finale and the Cougars got two hits from Gilbert, the home run from Ayala, a single from Max Nicholas and the double from Lowney in the loss. They had just five hits in the game and committed one error. Capital Christian rapped out a dozen hits and had two errors.
For the season as a whole, the Cougars went in with some uncertainty after losing the bulk of their starting pitching rotation. The varsity squad got solid innings out of Parker Cosby, who left his normal spot behind the plate to take the mound multiple times. He ended up with a 10-1 record on the mound. When he did the pitching, Nash Satnat took over behind the plate and had a stellar season as well, said Largent. Paul Ayala had a big year after not playing last year as a junior and Zach Abraham came back from a major arm injury last year to have a solid senior campaign. Anthony LaRossa also ate up plenty of innings on the mound for the varsity squad in his first year at that level.
“It’s a tough way to end it but you can look in the mirror and know you did all you could,” the coach noted. “Capital Christian, they respect us, we pushed them to the limit.”
The season ended short of the final, but the Cougars were co-champions for the Trans-Valley League title and ended up with a 10-2 league record and went 24-5 overall.
“We get greedy,” admitted Largent of wanting to battle for the Section crown each year. “We expect a lot but I think we did a great job and this group of seniors can look back over the last two years and know they won 50 ball games; that’s quite an accomplishment.”