Getting in a couple of good games against a tough opponent, Escalon’s varsity baseball Cougars tuned up for the playoffs with wins against Gregori on May 7 and 8.
“These were two very close games, Tuesday we won in a 3-1 final at Gregori,” said head coach Greg Largent
Escalon got on the board in the top of the first, with a leadoff single and then a stolen base from Phillip Kimble, followed by a walk to Garrett Denczek. The runners moved up on a Robbie Steves ground out, with Kimble scoring on an RBI single from Nathan Chunn.
In the fourth, Escalon capitalized on a pair of errors and a ground out to score Ben Hood with another run.
“In the bottom of that inning, Gregori got their run on a single, two walks and a wild pitch,” said Largent.
An insurance run was scored by the Cougars in the sixth, as pinch hitter Christian Fernandez, up from the JV team, got a single, then moved up on a Tad Dimas sacrifice bunt. Kimble was issued the intentional walk, with pinch hitter Owen Pangilinan then driving in Fernandez with a double.
“We had great defense from Robbie Steves all day, with four assists, after we moved him to shortstop, our defense really started gelling,” Largent explained. “Alec Nerland also made a great play on a ball that looked like it was in no man’s land, he ranged out from behind second and caught the ball, then got the runner trying to advance to third after a leadoff double, it stopped a potential rally.”
Ben Hood pitched a complete game, striking out four, scattering five hits, walking three and allowing one run. Escalon had three runs on nine hits, with multi-hit games from Kimble, Chunn and Hood.
On Wednesday, the Cougar seniors and their parents were recognized on the field prior to the game, and a special presentation of flowers was given to longtime Cougar supporter Rosemary Northcutt, also honored on the field.
The varsity boys then battled to a 1-0 victory to close out the regular season on a high note.
Head coach for Gregori, noted Largent, is Rob Steves, father of Cougar senior Robbie Steves.
“He probably knows this team as well as anyone and it was just kind of special,” Largent said of having Steves and the Gregori squad come in to play the finale.
The two teams, evenly matched, were scoreless through five. Escalon got the only run it needed in the bottom of the sixth. Hood got on with a leadoff single, Luis Estrada singled, Vince Valenzuela hit into a fielder’s choice that erased Hood, then Pangilinan followed with an infield single to load the bases.
“Again, it was Christian Fernandez, he came up as a pinch hitter and drew a four-pitch walk,” Largent said, with the walk driving in the game winner.
“Brent Montgomery did a great job on the mound, seven innings, no runs, no walks, five hits and nine strikeouts,” Largent added. “We only got three hits, but they were all in the sixth inning.”
Joining the varsity for the playoff run, moving up from the JV team, in addition to Fernandez, are Frankie Warren, Travis Nascimento, Kash Satnat, Adam Roberson, Robbie Rickman and Moises Murga.
Escalon starts the second season at 7 p.m. Thursday, May 16 at Billy Hebert Field in Stockton, taking on the winner of Monday’s ‘play in’ game pitting Calaveras against Lindhurst.
The TVL champion Cougars were 11-1 in league, 18-8-1 overall heading into the playoffs.