After a rainout on Saturday, March 1 to start their preseason campaign, the Escalon varsity baseball boys did get three games in during the week, all at home, and won two out of three.
“Tuesday (March 4) we hosted Calaveras and got a 1-0 victory,” explained head coach Greg Largent. “It was very odd, it was like a mid or late season game, good pitching, good defense.”
Both teams played like they had been on the diamond for the better part of a season, Largent said, not like they were just starting out on a new year.
“We scored the lone run of the game with two outs in the third,” the coach noted. “Garrett Denczek worked out a two-out walk and then Ben Hood tripled to deep right center, Garrett was able to score all the way from first,” said Largent.
Frankie Warren was the winning pitcher, going four innings and allowing just three hits and two walks while striking out three. Brandon Grogan came on and got the save by going three innings with one walk, four strikeouts and no hits allowed.
“We played error free, very unusual for this early,” Largent said.
Thursday, the boys hosted Patterson, a team they hadn’t played since the Tigers were in the Trans-Valley League a few years ago.
“We got a 6-5 victory,” said Largent.
Escalon took the lead in the bottom of the first, Ben Hood scoring on a Luis Estrada double, then added two more runs in the third inning. After two outs, Travis Nascimento singled, stole second, took third on a wild pitch and scored on an error. Estrada reached on that error and moved to second, scoring on a two-out RBI double from Kash Satnat. Patterson countered with single runs in the fourth and fifth to trim the lead to 3-2, Escalon made it 5-2 with runs in the bottom of the fifth. Denczek had a single, Hood reached on an error, Estrada had an RBI single and Satnat followed with a sacrifice fly.
Patterson made it 5-4 with two runs in the top of the sixth, the host Cougars got an insurance run in the bottom of the frame as Owen Pangilinan walked, stole second and third and scored on a Grogan single. Patterson got one run in the top of the seventh but couldn’t get the equalizer, Escalon holding on for a 6-5 win.
Getting the win was Robby Rickman, a sophomore, going five innings and allowing two runs on three hits with two strikeouts, one walk and one hit batter. Kevin Gregorio pitched two innings of relief for the save, with two hits, a strikeout and two walks. Rickman helped his own cause, going 2-for-2 with a double, Estrada was 2-for-4 with an RBI and Satnat was 1-for-2 with three runs batted in.
“Friday we faced Pacific Grove, we didn’t do a coast trip this year, they came here,” Largent explained. “They are the defending state champion in our division and they had gone 44-0 since 2012.”
Escalon lost to them, 11-2 on Friday, then Hughson defeated them in a Saturday game to end the winning streak at 44 games.
Largent said the varsity squad stayed with Pacific Grove early, trailing just 4-2 in the opening innings, but then were outplayed by the more experienced squad.
“Our youth showed, finally, we left the bases loaded three times, couldn’t get the timely hit,” he said.
Ben Hood got the start and went four innings, allowing five runs, four of them earned.
“He did a whale of a job, we just didn’t give him any run support,” Largent said. “Then we had four different relievers, they had a tough time throwing strikes.”
Pacific Grove had 11 runs on 10 hits with two errors; Escalon had two runs on five hits with three errors.
“It was a learning experience for the younger guys,” said Largent.
Satnat was 2-for-4, Grogan and Estrada drove in the runs.
Escalon hosts East Union today (March 12) and Sierra on Thursday, March 13 then travel for a game at Stagg on Friday, March 14.
“We have 15 guys on the roster this season, just three seniors,” Largent said.
Luis Estrada, Ben Hood and Owen Pangilinan are the seniors, with junior returners Garrett Denczek, Brandon Grogan and Kevin Gregorio back for another campaign. Also joining the varsity are juniors Frankie Warren, Travis Nascimento, Caleb Mullen, Christian Fernandez, Kash Satnat, Adam Roberson, Ryan Dicus and Moises Murga in addition to sophomore Robby Rickman making the jump to the varsity level.
“We have high expectations but we’re young,” Largent said. “The kids are working hard, I tell them just improve every day and keep going forward.”