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League Title, Postseason - Varsity Diamondmen Stay Focused
Vince Valenzuela, shown here heading to first on what ultimately was a sacrifice fly, has been money for the Cougars this season when it comes to knocking in the big runs. He had three RBIs in an 8-0 win on Friday. Marg Jackson/The Times

Sweeping Hughson, taking a windblown 11-9 decision on Wednesday, the varsity baseball Cougars also earned a solid shutout win on Friday to stay in first place in Trans-Valley League play with four games to go in the regular season.

They closed out the week with a loss in the championship game of the Windemuth Tournament, falling to Turlock in the rescheduled finale, originally postponed due to rain earlier in the month.

At Hughson for the TVL contest to start the week on April 17, the Cougars scored three runs in the top of the first, with an RBI single from Nathan Chunn, an RBI double from Ben Hood and a sacrifice fly from Brandon Grogan.

“Nathan got the start but he really struggled,” coach Greg Largent said. “He gave up six runs, five hits, walked one and hit two batters, he threw just 27 pitches.”

The unusual outing for Chunn saw him chased off the mound before the first inning was even over. Kevin Gregorio came on in relief and inherited a bases loaded situation, inducing a quick double play ball. But a walk and a base hit before the final out of the inning was recorded gave the Huskies a 7-3 lead.

Escalon got one back in the third on a two-out Vince Valenzuela RBI double, but Hughson scored two unearned runs in the bottom of the inning to lead it 9-4.

The Cougars kept chipping away, noted Largent, with a run in the fifth (Valenzuela RBI single) and then “erupted for six runs in the sixth” to take the lead for good.

Four walks and two hit batters helped their cause, with Owen Pangilinan and Valenzuela each getting a bases loaded walk to drive in a run and Tad Dimas ripping a two-run single.

Gregorio provided some solid relief work, and Hood came on in the fourth to work the rest of the game, getting credit for the win. Escalon had 11 runs on 10 hits with two errors, Hughson had nine runs on 14 hits with three errors.

Friday, Brent Montgomery went the distance and got the win in an 8-0 final.

“We got three in the first, with the bases loaded Luis Estrada got a walk for an RBI and Vince Valenzuela had a two-RBI single,” Largent said.

A run in the fourth came in on a passed ball, Phillip Kimble drove in a run with an RBI single with two outs in the fifth.

Escalon put the finishing touches on in the sixth inning, with three more runs.

“Robbie Steves singled and after a pop up, pinch hitter Brandon Grogan singled, pinch hitter Raymond Guevara singled and then Valenzuela lifted a sacrifice fly,” Largent explained. “Alec Nerland then reached on an error that scored two more runs.”

Montgomery threw 92 pitches on the day, with six strikeouts, three walks and five hits allowed.

Escalon had eight runs on eight hits with one error. Hughson committed three errors.

“Saturday, against Turlock, there were no hits until the fourth,” Largent said of battling against the higher division team. “We fell 3-0 to them but it was a great game, they’d won 19 straight and that was their 20th … we gave a real good team a good effort on Saturday.”

Of Escalon’s first nine outs, six were by strikeout. Chunn went five-and-a-third innings, giving up three runs but only one earned, and allowed five hits. Escalon managed just two hits on the day, by Estrada and Grogan.

“Robbie Steves gave us some great play at shortstop and Garrett Denczek had a great game behind the plate,” said Largent.

The Cougars had to settle for second place in the Windemuth tourney, but Largent was pleased with the battle and said the best thing about the league games this week was the total team effort.

“Everybody got in this week and contributed,” he said. “Everyone chipped in.”

The Cougars are scheduled to host Hilmar today, Wednesday, April 24 at 4 p.m. and travel to Hilmar for a Friday afternoon contest.