A tough outing in the Spring Break tournament in Oakdale came just at the right time for Escalon’s varsity baseball team.
The boys were winless in the tournament and that forced them to regroup, hit the practice field a little harder and reignited their hunger for a win.
“We got back on track,” head coach Greg Largent said of this week’s contests, the Cougars getting wins over Modesto Christian in Trans-Valley League play and edging past East Union in non-league action.
Now sitting at 19-4, undefeated in TVL, the Cougars can clinch a playoff spot with a win Wednesday, May 3 at Hughson and, if they win there, can secure the TVL title with a second win over the Huskies on Friday, May 5 at home.
“This week has playoff and league title implications,” agreed Largent.
Escalon set themselves up for the crucial week with the back-to-back wins over Modesto Christian. They traveled to Modesto for an April 26 game, getting a 6-0 shutout victory.
“Justice Naraghi went the distance, threw a two-hitter,” said Largent. “He struck out seven, had no walks, threw 92 pitches.”
Escalon got on the board with four runs in the third inning, key hits including an RBI double from Max Nicholas and a two-RBI double from Lucca Dutra. Another run scored on a wild pitch.
Adding single runs in the fourth and fifth, the visiting Cougars took the 6-0 win.
Tanner McCrary ripped an RBI single in the fourth, Dutra connected on a sacrifice fly in the fifth.
Friday, the Cougars hosted the Crusaders and this time, it was a run-shortened game, Escalon winning by a 12-2 final in five innings.
“It was a pretty windy game for the first half, then it settled down,” explained Largent. “Modesto Christian got a leadoff home run, in fact their first three guys hit the ball hard, after the home run they had two hard hit singles.”
But the Cougars escaped with no more runs scoring that inning, pitcher Steven Grossi settling down and settling in, getting the complete game victory. He struck out seven, allowed four hits and threw just 79 pitches. Modesto Christian got their second run in the fourth on a hit batter and an RBI ground out.
Escalon, meanwhile, answered the leadoff home run for the Crusaders with five runs of their own in the bottom of the inning. Nicholas got things started with a leadoff single, Lowney bunted him over and Parker Cosby sent a line shot to center field that was dropped for an error. Dutra followed with an RBI single, Naraghi worked out a walk, Zach Abraham had an RBI single, Jacob Alvarado had a ground out RBI and McCrary had an RBI double.
“We added three in the second, three in the third,” Largent said.
A single by Dutra, an error that allowed Naraghi to get on, followed by three walks and a wild pitch helped add to the Cougar lead. Third inning scoring was keyed by singles from Lowney, Cosby and Dutra. Alvarado was then hit by a pitch to drive in a run and McCrary followed with a two-RBI double. Alvarado had to leave the game after getting hit but is expected to be back in action this week, suffering a bone bruise.
A single by Lowney and a Dutra double brought in the final run of the day for the home team in the bottom of the fourth, making it 12-2, after the Crusaders had gotten their second run in the top of the frame.
At East Union on Saturday, the Cougars faced off with the Lancers, making up a game that was previously rained out.
“The game was over in an hour and 40 minutes, we got a 2-1 win,” Largent said. “It was a very well-played ball game on both sides.”
Nick Warren took the mound and got the win with 108 pitches thrown, striking out seven, walking three and giving up one earned run.
“We took the lead in the second, with one out Justice Naraghi singled and then we did a hit and run with Zach Abraham at the plate, he sent it over second base and no one covered third,” Largent explained.
That put Naraghi at third and he came in on a Nash Satnat RBI single to make it 1-0.
In the third inning, Estephan Salcedo got aboard with a leadoff double and scored on a Lowney RBI double.
“They scored one in the fifth but we got out of a bases loaded jam,” Largent said of giving up just a single run. “In the sixth, McCrary made a nice catch in left field to end a threat and in the seventh, they got the tying run on but Nick worked out of it.”
The East Union left hander they faced kept the Cougars off balance all day, Largent said, with the team not making solid contact but coming away with the win to improve to an overall record of 19-4. They are 8-0 in league and are eager to secure a playoff spot this week.
“We are just taking them one game at a time,” Largent said.