One game on Monday and a doubleheader on Wednesday kept the Escalon varsity Cougar baseball boys busy during the first part of their Spring Break week.
They took part in the Oakdale Mark Dickens Tournament, hosting games in the tourney at Escalon High School.
“It was a rough week,” admitted head coach Greg Largent, whose Cougars took three straight losses and endured their first shutout of the season. “We knew going in it would be difficult, these were all larger schools.”
Even so, the Cougars didn’t do themselves any favors, having some mental and physical errors plague them during the tournament. Pitching, which has been stellar so far throughout the campaign, also fell short of their norm.
“We played all three of our games in Escalon,” Largent added. “We played one game Monday, then all the games on Tuesday were washed out, so we had a doubleheader on Wednesday.”
Opening up with Tokay on Monday, the Cougars fell behind early, with Tokay scoring three runs in the second.
“Steven Grossi started, he didn’t have his best stuff,” Largent said.
Escalon trimmed it to a 3-1 Tokay lead in the fifth on an RBI single from Parker Cosby, but then gave up four runs in the sixth to trail 7-1. A couple of late Cougar runs made it a 7-3 final in Tokay’s favor. Jake Alvarado had an RBI double in the loss.
“We weren’t sharp, we got out of our routine and we were sleepwalking early,” said Largent. “We finally woke up but it was a little too late.”
After the Tuesday washout, Escalon faced off against Gregori in a morning game on Wednesday and Lodi in the afternoon. Gregori came in at 18-0 and Escalon did push them, taking them to extra innings before falling by a 7-5 final. Four runs came in the first inning for Gregori, after two outs.
“Justice Naraghi started and once he settled down, he did great,” said Largent.
But the early lead proved to be too much for the Cougars to overcome.
Cosby had an RBI single after a Max Nicholas double to get Escalon on the board in the bottom of the first, making it 4-1. Gregori added one run in the third, the Cougars added two in the fourth, with runs batted in by Zach Abraham and Tanner McCrary.
Trailing 5-3, Escalon stole a couple of runs with two outs in the seventh. Nash Satnat and Colton Lowney got on with walks – Lowney after a roughly 12-pitch battle – and after Nicholas went in to pinch run for Satnat, the Cougars pulled off a double steal following a pitching change. That put both runners in scoring position and they both scored on a roller up the middle by Cosby. That tied the game at 5-5, the Cougars showing some push back.
In the eighth, Gregori used a combination of hits and walks to get two runs and Escalon could not match it in their at bat, falling 7-5.
“It shows that we can compete with anybody,” Largent said. “Even though we lost, it was a satisfying game.”
Nick Warren came on in relief of Naraghi, pitching one inning.
Escalon’s final game in the tournament was an afternoon contest Wednesday with Lodi, taking the field at 3:45 p.m. after having started their day with the Gregori game at 9 a.m.
“In our last game, we got shut out for the first time all year, we lost 4-0,” Largent said. “We were held to two hits and only had five baserunners.”
Cosby, who had an outstanding tournament, had a double in the first inning, a single in the fourth and also reached base on a walk, the bright spot in the game for the Cougars.
“Parker got his first start of the season and pitched well, kept them off balance, mixed his speeds,” added Largent. “We just couldn’t get him any run support.”
Cosby pitched five innings, allowing three runs, two were earned. Warren pitched two innings in relief.
“We don’t like to back down from anyone,” Largent said of taking on the larger schools in the annual Dickens Tournament. “This will make us stronger for the final push.”
The Cougars will be at Modesto Christian on Wednesday, April 26 for a 4 p.m. game and then host the Crusaders in a 4 p.m. contest on Friday, April 28. They also will play at East Union on Saturday, April 29 at 1 p.m., making up a previously rained out non-league game.