Escaping their first round game with a come-from-behind win in their final at bat, the Cougar varsity baseball team then ran into the defending Section champions and fell in that contest.
Still, they face off with Capital Christian again in a game scheduled for today, Wednesday, May 25 as the best two-out-of-three second round series continues.
In their Sac-Joaquin Section Division V opener, Escalon faced off with Argonaut in a game at Billy Hebert Field on May 19. The Mustangs took the early lead but Escalon tied it up 1-1 in the top of the third on an RBI double by Dustin Lawrence.
In the bottom of that inning, second baseman Colton Lowney made a diving stop of a hard hit grounder but hit the turf awkwardly, dislocating his shoulder. It kept the runner at first but Lowney was out of the game. The next batter drove one deep to the outfield, driving in a run with the triple and then coming in to score on the overthrow of third. That gave Argonaut a 3-1 lead. Escalon threatened with a one out triple by Trevor Van Boven in the fourth but he was thrown out at the plate after a fly out to center field, the Argonaut player firing a strike to home to cut him down.
After the teams battled through a couple of scoreless innings, neither squad able to get much going, Escalon came in to their final at bat in the top of the seventh trailing by a 3-1 score and looking like they might have an early exit from the playoffs.
But a Scyler Beltran leadoff hit (pinch runner Lucca Dutra went in for him), followed by JoJo Dutra being hit by a pitch gave the Cougars runners at first and second with no out. Dylan Azevedo put a perfect bunt down the third base line to load the bases and starting pitcher Robby Rickman helped his own cause, clearing the bases with a double to put his team in the lead, 4-3.
Argonaut changed pitchers at that point, Max Nicholas went in to run for Rickman and he moved to third on a sacrifice fly by Alec Beltran. After Lawrence was hit by a pitch, he stole second to erase the double play threat. After a bounce out, pinch hitter Cole Gilbert – up from the JV team for the playoffs – came in for Jackson Bennett and crushed a two-out, two-run double, making it a 6-3 Escalon lead.
The Cougars dispatched Argonaut easily in the bottom of the seventh, securing the win.
“That was a nice little comeback we had,” said head coach Greg Largent. “The kids responded and everybody contributed. It was very rewarding for everybody.”
Saturday, the Cougars headed back to Stockton to face the defending Section champions Capital Christian. They couldn’t get much going offensively, though, collecting just two hits in a 3-1 loss.
Escalon’s lone run came in the sixth inning.
“Jackson Bennett had a leadoff single and pinch runner Max Nicholas went in,” said Largent. “Trevor Van Boven hit into a fielder’s choice, pinch hitter Cole Gilbert struck out but then JoJo Dutra singled to drive in the run. That was our offense.”
Escalon struck out eight times and when they did put the bat on the ball, they hit it right at a Capital Christian player.
Bennett went the distance in taking the loss. Capital Christian used a single and two doubles to get a pair of runs in the first inning and they scored another in the second on a single and two Escalon errors. Largent pointed to strong play by catcher Parker Cosby, who threw out a pair of runners in the bottom of the sixth and also blocked a ball in the fifth to save a run, helping keep his team in the game.
“There were some showers, light rain early and by the end of the day there was a lot of rain,” Largent said of the tough conditions.
Bennett struck out six and walked three. He also hit two batters.
“They’re a very solid team,” Largent added of Capital Christian. “We proved that we can play with them, but you have to hit to win.”
Capital Christian has won the Section title the last three years. Prior to that, Escalon had a three-year title run and, before that, Central Catholic won it 10 straight years, so three teams have had a chokehold on the title for the past 16 years.
Game two in the series is at 4 p.m. today, Wednesday, May 25. The Cougars must win that game to force a third and deciding contest to see who moves on to the next round.
“Robby will get the ball,” the coach said of sending Rickman out to the mound. “Hopefully we get a little more offense.”