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Varsity Cougars Clinch Baseball Playoff Berth


With a 6-1 win at home and a shutout victory on the road, Escalon’s varsity baseball squad took a pair of contests from Hughson this week. The two wins guaranteed them a spot in the upcoming Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs.

In the home game on Tuesday, May 3, senior Robby Rickman got the start and just missed the shutout, giving up one run in the seventh inning.

“Robby pitched very well, threw 84 pitches, five strikeouts, pitched to contact,” said head coach Greg Largent. “We played great defense all day.”

Escalon got four runs in the fifth inning, starting out with a one out single from Jackson Bennett. He went to third on a potential double play ball that was thrown away by the third baseman. Colton Lowney followed with an RBI single, then JoJo Dutra walked. They moved up on an RBI ground out from Dylan Azevedo and Rickman helped his own cause with a two-RBI single.

With Rickman in control on the mound, the four runs would have been enough but the Cougars added two more runs in the sixth, Dustin Lawrence led off with a single, Justice Naraghi put down a sacrifice bunt. After a ground out, Trevor Van Boven worked out a walk and stole second.

“Pinch hitter Logan Widmer then came up with a two-run single to right, got us some insurance runs,” said Largent.

Hughson did scratch out a run in their final at-bat, but couldn’t get any closer.

“They got a couple of nice hits and ended up scoring one run,” Largent explained of the Huskies. “We got a nice double play to end it.”

Thursday, it was a 9-0 victory on the road for the varsity Cougars.

“It’s a live park, the last few years, it has been football-like scores there, it’s usually a dog fight, back and forth,” said the coach. “But we came out ready to go.”

Escalon jumped out in the first inning, scoring a run on an Alec Beltran RBI single, driving in Azevedo, who had walked and then stole second.

In the third inning, Dutra reached on an error, Azevedo moved him over with a sacrifice bunt. Rickman reached on an intentional walk and then he and Dutra both moved up on a wild pitch. Dutra scored on an Alec Beltran sacrifice fly to make it 2-0.

“It stayed that way until the fifth, when we scored four runs,” Largent said.

Singles by Azevedo, Beltran, Lawrence and Bennett, a double from Rickman, a perfect bunt by Naraghi and a throwing error by the Huskies added up to four runs.

While the Cougars were making the most of their hits and the Hughson miscues, Jackson Bennett was doing the job on the mound. He threw just 91 pitches, walked one and struck out eight in getting the shutout victory.

His teammates made sure he had plenty of run support, adding three more in the sixth inning.

Rickman singled, Beltran reached on an error and Lawrence walked to load the bases. Justice Naraghi drove in a run with a ground out and pinch hitter Van Boven roped a two-run double to make it a 9-0 Escalon lead.

“We got some very timely pinch hits this week, very nice,” Largent said of the offense coming through in the clutch. “Jackson pitched great, one of his best outings of the year and we played errorless again.”

Ripon, Escalon and Hilmar have all qualified for the playoffs – Ripon ending the week undefeated, Escalon having just two losses, both to Ripon. The Cougars and Hilmar face off this week in a series that will have implications for the final standings in the Trans-Valley League. Hilmar is at 7-3, Escalon at 8-2 so the Cougars can nail down the second seed with even a split of the two-game series.

“We had a great week, qualified for playoffs, it looks like we are hitting stride at the right time,” Largent said.

The Cougars were scheduled to travel to face the Yellowjackets on Tuesday, May 10 after The Times went to press and will be home today, Wednesday, May 11 for the regular season finale, which will also be celebrated as Senior Day for the squad, with 10 seniors to be recognized in a ceremony prior to the first pitch.