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Varsity Baseball Cougars End 2016 Playoff Run
Head coach Greg Largent makes a point to his players during Sac-Joaquin Section playoff action. The Cougars got past Argonaut, then pushed Capital Christian to three games, ultimately losing the series 2-1 to bow out of the playoffs. Marg Jackson/The Times

Pushing Capital Christian to the third game in a best two-out-of-three series, Escalon’s varsity Cougars baseball team closed out the season with a loss, ending short of the Section title game.

Still, head coach Greg Largent said his Cougars showed some tenacity in defeating Capital Christian in their first game on Wednesday, May 25 forcing the third game in the three-game set. Capital’s Cougars had won the first game on Saturday, May 21 and looked to sweep the Cougars with a win in the first game on May 25, but were greeted by a determined team that refused to go quietly.

“We had them a little wary, it was a great win for us in the first game,” Largent said. “Our kids were ready to go.”

Escalon was able to take the field as the home team for that first game on Wednesday and got some dramatic defense early, with Trevor Van Boven throwing a runner out at the plate from his outfield position to end the first inning.

The Escalon Cougars carried that momentum into the bottom of the first, with JoJo Dutra getting on board with an infield single, Dylan Azevedo moved him up with a bunt single and Robby Rickman reached on catcher’s interference. Alec Beltran then drove in a run with an RBI single.

In the top of the second, two walks and a passed ball caused some trouble, but Escalon escaped unscathed. Capital Christian, though, scored two in the top of the third to take a 2-1 lead on a hit batter, a walk and a double.

“We countered with four in the bottom of the third,” said Largent.

Dutra walked, Azevedo bunted to reach base and Rickman tripled to drive in a pair of runs. Alec Beltran then ripped an RBI double and Dustin Lawrence followed with an RBI single to give Escalon the 5-2 lead.

Adding a single run in the fourth, the Cougars went up 6-2 with a single and stolen base from Azevedo followed by an RBI single from Rickman.

In the fifth, Capital scored a run to get a little closer, 6-3, but the Cougars opened it up in the bottom of the sixth and ended up with a 9-5 victory.

Van Boven doubled in the sixth, Dutra bunted and Van Boven scored on a throwing error, with Azevedo reaching on a bunt and Alec Beltran driving home two runs with a double.

“He had a great day, he was 3-for-4 with two doubles and five RBIs,” Largent said of Beltran.

Capital threatened again in the top of the seventh and Rickman, after 128 pitches, was lifted for relief pitcher Jackson Bennett. The Capital Christian Cougars plated a couple of runs in that final frame but Escalon held on for the win. Escalon had nine runs on 13 hits with two errors in that game; Capital had five runs on five hits and an error.

Anticipating seeing a left-handed pitcher in the series, Largent said his team practiced against EHS alum Patrick Mulry, a lefty who came in to pitch some batting practice to get ready for the opener on Wednesday.

“It really helped us, paid off, I’m giving Patrick the assist,” Largent said, pleased that one of his former players would come back to help the current team do their best.

That set up the series finale, following shortly after the first game on Wednesday. This time, Capital Christian came out on top but Escalon did push them to the third game.

“In the nightcap we fell 6-1,” noted Largent.

Bennett got the start and went two innings, still feeling the effects of a complete game he had thrown the previous Saturday.

Initially when they entered the playoffs the Cougars had hoped to utilize Colton Lowney on the mound, but he was injured in their opening round game. So Bennett got the start but didn’t have too much gas left in the tank.

Capital got a run in the first, Escalon answered with a run of their own in the top of the second.

Lawrence reached on an error and moved up on a wild pitch, then scored on an RBI single by Bennett. Capital scored two more in the bottom of the fame to lead it 3-1 and never looked back. Alec Beltran and Parker Cosby both pitched in relief.

“Hats off to the boys for stepping up,” Largent said of making it as far as they did in the playoffs. “It was a loss but we had come a long way in the last two weeks.”

Ending their season with an overall mark of 16-13, Largent said he knows his players gave it all they had.

Largent noted that he also shared information and insights about Capital Christian with Linden, which was slated to play the Sacramento-based team for the Section title on Monday afternoon, Memorial Day.