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Varsity Baseball Cougars Earn Second Place In TVL
Starting pitcher for the regular season finale, senior Jackson Bennett, throws one in toward the plate during action on Wednesday, May 18. The host Cougars got past Hilmar, 5-2, to claim second place in the Trans-Valley League. Marg Jackson/The Times

Needing a split in their last two Trans-Valley League games to hang on to second place in the league standings, Escalon got what they needed … but nothing more.

The Cougars lost on the road to Hilmar on Tuesday, May 10 but came back to win at home on Wednesday, May 11.

“We made it tough on ourselves,” admitted head coach Greg Largent. “We came out flat Tuesday; it was the first time we’ve been shut out all season.”

Escalon had just three hits on the day with no runs and they committed five errors. Host Hilmar made the most of their opportunities, scoring three runs on five hits. They did not commit any errors.

“Robby (Rickman) started, they got one earned run in the first, two in the fourth, both those were unearned,” Largent said of his pitcher not getting any breaks.

With no runs and making several errors, the coach said he’s hopeful his team got all that “out of our system” before they head to the playoffs later this week.

“We were sleepwalking, it was almost like we didn’t want to be there,” Largent explained. “That put us behind the eight-ball on Wednesday.”

A Hilmar win at Escalon would have given second place to the Yellowjackets, but the Cougars prevailed in a 5-2 decision, sealing second place in the TVL, behind undefeated Ripon. The Indians were 12-0, Escalon finished 9-3.

Hilmar did get a run in the top of the first, using a double, sacrifice and a single to get the run in.

Escalon answered back with two runs in the bottom of the first, started off by JoJo Dutra with a leadoff single. He stole second and moved to third on a Dylan Azevedo infield single. Then Alec Beltran brought them both in with a two-RBI double.

“In the third Dutra singled, Azevedo moved him over with a sacrifice bunt, Rickman singled and Alec Beltran had a sacrifice fly RBI,” Largent said of making it a 3-1 Cougar lead.

Another run in the fourth came on a Jackson Bennett single, a hit and run play by Parker Cosby and an RBI ground out by Hashie Naraghi. One more insurance run came in the sixth inning, as Dutra walked and moved to second on a balk.

“Pinch hitter Brian Warren then hit an RBI single,” Largent said.

Up 5-1 going into the seventh, things got pretty interesting in that frame but the Cougars were able to hang on.

“Hilmar scored a run and they had the bases loaded,” Largent said.

The go ahead run was at the plate with two outs, after Hilmar got a couple of hits and got a pair of free passes from starting pitcher Bennett.

“The last batter struck out,” Largent said, with the varsity squad sealing the nailbiter.

Escalon had five runs on 12 hits and had one error; Hilmar had two runs on five hits with three errors. Bennett had 10 strikeouts and walked five in the win.

“JoJo was on base three of four times and scored three runs, he had two hits,” said Largent. “Jackson was 2-for-3 and also getting hits were Azevedo, Rickman, Alec Beltran, Justice Naraghi and Cosby.”

When playoff seedings were announced, the Cougars were named the number five seed out of 10 teams in Division V, and will face off against the number four seed, Mother Lode League champion Argonaut, on Thursday, May 19 at 4 p.m. at Billy Hebert Field in Stockton.

“Hopefully we can bring our ‘A’ game,” Largent said. “If we win there, we play Saturday at 3 p.m.”

That game, first in a best two out of three series, would be against the winner of the top seed Capital Christian team and whichever team – Hilmar or West Campus – won a play in game Monday to take on Capital Christian.