Getting some help from an unexpected source – Ripon – the Escalon varsity baseball team earned a share of the Trans-Valley League title, named as co-champions with Mountain House.
As the Cougars were winning their final two games of the season, Mountain House won one and lost one to Ripon, leaving both Escalon and the Mustangs at 10-2 in league play.
Headed into the final week of the regular season, the Cougars knew they had to win both games to even have a shot at the crown.
They started out on the road, going to Hilmar for a showdown with the Yellowjackets on Tuesday, May 8. Escalon came away with an 8-3 win on the day.
Jumping on top early, Escalon used a single from Parker Cosby and a sacrifice bunt from Max Nicholas to get a runner into scoring position in the first inning. Paul Ayala reached on an error that allowed Cosby to score, followed by a walk to Cole Gilbert, a single from Zach Abraham and a bases loaded walk to Nash Satnat to drive in a run.
It was a short-lived lead, as Hilmar scored two runs of their own in the bottom of the frame, capitalizing on three singles and a fielder’s choice to knot the score at 2-2.
“In the fifth inning, we went up 4-2,” explained head coach Greg Largent. “After an out, Abraham singled, Colton Lowney singled and after the second out, Anthony LaRossa had a two-run double.”
Escalon added one more in the sixth and three in the seventh.
“Parker Cosby just missed a home run, it was a double high off the wall, then he stole third,” Largent said of the sixth inning offense. “Paul Ayala drove him in with a sacrifice fly to make it 5-2.”
Walks to Satnat and LaRossa started the seventh, with Carson Grogan and Carson George going in to pinch run for them. After an Estephan Salcedo sacrifice bunt, singles from Cosby, Nicholas and Ayala drove in the three runs.
Hilmar got a single run in the seventh but couldn’t get any closer.
“Paul Ayala pitched, he went the distance,” Largent noted. “He allowed three runs and struck out five with two hit batters.”
Cosby was 3-for-3, Gilbert and Abraham each went 2-for-4 and Ayala had three RBI. LaRossa had a double.
Right back on the diamond the next day, Escalon hosted Hilmar on Wednesday, May 9 and honored its seven seniors in pre-game ceremonies. Recognized were Zach Abraham, Paul Ayala, Parker Cosby, Steven Grossi, Colton Lowney, Max Nicholas and Estephan Salcedo.
On the field, it was a 13-3 win for the Cougars in a run-shortened game.
Escalon scored four in the first, three in the third, three in the fourth, and three in the fifth. Hilmar scored two runs in the fourth and one in the fifth. Cosby got the start on the mound for the Cougars, going five innings to get the win, striking out four and walking one while throwing 76 pitches.
Three doubles and two errors helped Escalon cash in for their runs in the first inning. Cosby doubled, Nicholas and Lucca Dutra each reached on an error, followed by a two-run double from Gilbert. Abraham also notched a two-run double. In the third, Ayala had a two-run single and Salcedo notched an RBI single. A solo home run from Dutra and a two-run single from Ayala brought in the fourth inning runs and closing out the scoring in the fifth were Gilbert with a sacrifice fly and Abraham with a two-run single.
Leading the hit parade on Wednesday were Abraham, 4-for-4; Gilbert 2-for-2; Ayala 2-for-3, each with multiple runs batted in.
Escalon improved to 10-2 in Trans-Valley League play with the wins and were 22-3 overall.
“We did get help from Ripon, they beat Mountain House 2-1 so we got a co-championship,” Largent said. “We finished as the number two seed (from the TVL) due to the tiebreaker.”
For the playoffs, Escalon was bumped up into Division IV from their normal spot in Division V and were scheduled to host Liberty Ranch out of Galt on Tuesday, May 15 after The Times went to press. The Cougars go in as the number six seed in D-IV while Liberty Ranch is the No. 11 seed. A win in the first round ‘play in’ game against Liberty Ranch would see Escalon traveling to face the number three seed, Dixon, in a second round game on Thursday, May 17.
Teams playing in the Division IV bracket are top seed El Dorado, followed by Woodland, Dixon, Mountain House, Capital Christian, Escalon, Casa Roble, Sonora, Livingston, Marysville, Liberty Ranch, Venture Academy and West Campus.