Two games in February that seemed more like midseason contests opened the campaign for Escalon’s varsity baseball team.
The Cougars were winners in both, taking down Ceres and Calaveras.
They opened their schedule with a Friday, Feb. 28 game against the Ceres Bulldogs and took a 3-1 win off the field.
“We got great pitching from Ty Harris, he went five innings and allowed just one run on one hit,” said head coach Greg Largent. “Our defense was solid behind him, we only committed one error.”
Left fielder Ethan Johnson and center fielder Dylan Ruiz got high marks for some nice running catches and the squad also utilized a double play in the third to end a Ceres threat.
Harris struck out one and allowed four walks. Roman Gonzalez came on for an inning and two-thirds of relief work and Clay Evans nailed down the final out for the save.
“Roman stepped up to help, he faced seven batters and allowed one walk and hit one batter,” Largent explained. “Clay got the save; with two runners on he got a long fly ball that was run down nicely by Dylan Ruiz.”
Ceres scored their only run in the fourth inning on a walk, a sacrifice bunt and a single. Escalon had six hits on the day and Bryce McPherrin notched an RBI single.
Saturday morning, as Escalon High School prepared to celebrate its 100 year anniversary, the baseball team broke out their new ‘throwback’ uniforms, with a 100-year patch and old-style lettering. They will be used as the home jersey for this season only, in recognition of the school’s milestone observance.
“Our score was an old-time score,” Largent added of crafting a hard-fought 1-0 win over Calaveras on Feb. 29.
“We played great defense again, we were solid all game,” the coach said.
Getting the start on the mound was Johnson, who pitched six strong innings, giving up just two hits and no runs. He struck out eight and walked five.
Evans pitched the top of the seventh and had two strikeouts, but also had two men on base when the final out was recorded, earning the save.
“We had two pressure cookers back to back and it was good to see the kids respond that well,” Largent said.
Escalon’s only run of the day came in the third inning with a one-out single from Harris, a steal and an RBI double from Noah Rast.
“We had the leadoff batter on in four of six innings,” Largent said, but had difficulty making anything happen after that. Fortunately, he said, the pitching and defense were good enough to make the one run stand up for the win.
“We have 18 kids, nine seniors and nine juniors,” Largent noted of this year’s team. “I haven’t had a team with this kind of chemistry in 12, 13 years; they play for each other, they are very coachable and they have bonded early.”
Coaches assisting again this year include Harold Hood, Bill Grogan, Mark George, Gino Franceschetti and Don Nickerson. It’s a group, Largent said, that includes a little bit of every coaching style, from quiet encouragement to vocal direction. It’s also a group that works well with the players and Largent said the team is looking forward to a good season, eager to be on the field.
As far as the throwback uniforms, he said they were a hit as well, having their official unveiling on Saturday.
“People were coming up to me all day long, telling me how great they looked,” he said, adding that it also helped get everyone “in the spirit” for the afternoon’s 100-year celebration hosted on the EHS campus.
This week, the team is scheduled to host Mountain House and East Union on March 4 and 5, then travel to Patterson on Friday, March 6.