Getting two Trans-Valley League wins and taking a Saturday night contest against Linden, it was a busy and successful week for Escalon’s varsity baseball team.
The league wins came against Riverbank, first at home and then on the road, while Saturday’s game was played at Banner Island Ballpark in Stockton.
Wednesday, the team hosted Riverbank in the TVL opener for both squads.
“We came away with a 9-1 win but the game was much closer than the score indicated,” said Escalon head coach Greg Largent. “They had taken a no-hitter into the sixth.”
Escalon did score early on with an error and a fielder’s choice, Riverbank tied it up in the top of the sixth on a single, a sacrifice bunt, a single and an error, making it 1-1.
In the bottom of the sixth, the floodgates opened, with the visiting Bruins putting a couple of different pitchers on the mound in that frame.
Colton Lowney walked, Parker Cosby reached on a bunt and Lowney came around to score on an errant throw, with Cosby going to third. Lucca Dutra then tripled to drive in the second run, Justice Naraghi singled to drive in Dutra. Zach Abraham reached on an error, Tanner McCrary singled to drive in a run, Estephan Salcedo doubled to drive in a run, followed by a Max Nicholas RBI single, an RBI double by Lowney and an RBI single from Cosby.
“Up until that inning, their pitcher had kept us off balance with breaking balls, knuckle balls,” noted Largent.
On the Cougar side, Naraghi got the start and pitched a complete game, getting the win with just 95 pitches thrown. He struck out eight, walked two, allowed four hits and one unearned run.
“A crucial point came with a runner at second, two out, Nash Satnat made a diving catch in the outfield,” Largent said of keeping the Bruins off the board in the fourth inning.
On Friday, the Cougars traveled to Riverbank and won by a 5-0 decision in a windy, wild day. This time, it was Steven Grossi getting the start and the win, pitching seven strong innings and giving up just one hit.
“Steven did a great job pitching to contact and Naraghi played great defense at shortstop, he was in on eight putouts, we turned a big double play in the third,” Largent said.
Escalon scored four runs in the third with a double from Salcedo, a ground out by Nicholas to move him to third, followed by a Lowney RBI single. Cosby singled, Dutra walked, Naraghi reached on a fielder’s choice that saw the out made at home and then Abraham tripled to clear the bases, driving in three runs.
The Cougars added one more in the seventh on a double by Salcedo and an RBI ground out from Lowney.
Saturday, the varsity boys went to Banner Island Ballpark to take on Linden in a game that served as a fundraising event.
“It was a playoff-like atmosphere, we came in with an 11-1 record, they were 11-2,” Largent said of both teams doing well in the early going. “The crowd wasn’t disappointed; we came away with a 3-2 victory.”
Linden scored two in the second, Escalon tied it in the third. Lowney singled, Cosby walked and Lowney came in to score on an error on a double steal. Dutra walked and Naraghi then put down the suicide squeeze to get Cosby across the plate, making it 2-2.
The Lions threatened in their half of the third, putting runners at first and third with no outs.
“On a ball to right field, Salcedo made the catch and then he one-hopped it to the plate, threw the runner out at home for a double play,” Largent said.
Escalon threatened in the fourth and fifth and then got the go ahead run in the seventh.
Cosby was hit by a pitch, Dutra put down the sacrifice bunt, Naraghi reached on an error and Abraham came through with an RBI ground out to make it 3-2.
“Nick Warren was our starter, he went 105 pitches and Lowney came in for the seventh to close it,” Largent said.
The final at bat for Linden was not without controversy. After a strikeout, the next hitter bounced it between short and third, with Dutra making the grab and throwing as he left his feet, making for a ‘bang bang’ play at first, said Largent. The runner was called out, a call that ultimately resulted in the player and two Linden coaches being tossed from the game for arguing the call. The next hitter was retired on a fly ball to right, giving the Cougars the 3-2 win.
There was additional unpleasantness after the game involving umpires and some from the Linden side, Largent said, which prompted a police response to the stadium to help sort it out.
“That’s unfortunate, it marred what was otherwise a beautiful night for baseball,” the coach noted.
This week, the Cougars jump back into league play and face off against rival Ripon.
Largent said his team will need to stay focused on the games to be played, not get caught up in the emotion of the ongoing Escalon-Ripon rivalry. The Cougars start with a road game on Wednesday, April 5 at Ripon and have a home game on Friday, April 7.