In what could be considered likely the strangest game Escalon varsity baseball players have been involved with in recent memory, their head coach and starting catcher were both tossed in a Friday afternoon game at home against Mountain House.
For Cougar skipper Greg Largent, it was the first time in his career he has been ejected from a game and it came after the home plate umpire told him to control some Escalon fans watching the game.
The umpire was unhappy with some of the fans who started chattering following an unusual incident in the bleachers on the home side behind the backstop. The situation saw the umpire’s adult daughter tumble off the top of the bleachers onto the ground below, requiring an ambulance response. The woman, who was reportedly intoxicated, was taken away in the ambulance and Escalon police also responded to the scene.
Largent said he told the umpire they would play the game with one umpire if he wanted to accompany his daughter to the hospital but the umpire refused the offer. He then instructed Largent to get the fans under control after they loudly complained about a called strike three on a Cougar hitter but was unhappy with the way Largent addressed the fans, saying he did it in such a way so that he “showed up” the umpire. As Largent tried to plead his case that he was only doing what the umpire had requested, he was tossed from the game.
That was midway through the contest and it was a game that ultimately saw the Cougars lose their first Trans-Valley League decision of the season, falling 3-0 to the Mustangs.
Earlier in the week, Escalon won in extra innings at Mountain House, 3-1, so the teams are knotted in the standings, each with just one league loss so far in the campaign.
Shortly after Largent’s ouster, starting catcher Parker Cosby was steamrolled at the plate as he attempted to catch the throw in from the outfield and the runner coming in from third bowled him over.
“The runner half slid, half didn’t,” Largent said of the play.
Cosby was unable to handle the ball cleanly to make the tag and threw his helmet in frustration, which got him sent off the field as well.
Largent said going to extra innings on Wednesday at Mountain House, with the Cougars winning with very little offense, had a carryover effect to Friday, when they again were unable to buy a base hit. The school also had its Every 15 Minutes program Thursday and Friday, an emotional two days that saw some of the varsity baseball players taking part. The coach said that may have had a lingering effect as well, but ultimately, it was the lack of getting the hits when needed that led to the loss.
Initially, the coach indicated after being thrown out that the Friday game would be played under protest, feeling as though the home plate umpire could not concentrate fully on the game between the lines while his daughter was getting emergency medical treatment. But he has since decided not to file a protest.
“They outplayed us,” Largent said of Mountain House. “They got one run in the first, Anthony LaRossa started and gave up four straight singles after an out, but then worked out of it, they stranded people with the bases loaded.”
The visitors didn’t score again until pushing a pair of runs across the plate in the top of the seventh, the first run the one that got Cosby thrown out of the game.
Escalon, however, could not get anything going offensively. A one out single in the second, a two out double in the third, a leadoff single in the fourth with a stolen base and a single in the final inning was all the Cougars could muster. Mountain House had 10 hits on the day, Escalon had four.
On Wednesday, April 19, the Cougars were on the road to take on the host Mustangs and did get the win there.
“It was well-played, by both sides,” Largent said. “The Mountain House lefty baffled us, we struck out 15 times and he just threw the ball by us.”
For Escalon, Cosby got the start on the mound and went the distance, striking out nine Mustangs of his own in eight innings.
“Neither pitcher gave up a walk,” Largent added, noting that he has never seen a high school game where the pitchers combined for 24 strikeouts and no walks.
In the first inning, Cosby hit a line drive to left field that got past the outfielder and rolled to the wall, with Cosby ending up on third. After a pair of strikeouts, he was able to score on a passed ball to make it 1-0. That was all they would get that inning and Mountain House tied it up with a run in the bottom of the third.
“It was 1-1 until the top of the eighth,” Largent said.
At that point, the Mustangs starter hit his 110-pitch limit and the Cougars were able to jump on the new pitcher, Estephan Salcedo getting on with a single and then moving to second on a balk. Cosby hit a ground ball to short and the throw to first was low, with Salcedo seizing the chance to come around and score. Cosby was able to make it to third on an errant throw on a pickoff attempt and came in to score on a Max Nicholas RBI single.
Cosby threw just 86 pitches in getting the win and also had two hits on the day. Nicholas, Salcedo and Colton Lowney each had a hit, as Escalon managed just five in the contest.
“We wanted to get one from them,” Largent said.
With Mountain House coming to Escalon and winning there, the teams split the ‘home and home’ series.
“It was a funky week, a lot of distraction but we just couldn’t swing the bat,” Largent admitted. “Right now we’re tied with Mountain House, we each have one loss, though they have the tiebreaker in runs scored, hopefully it doesn’t come to that at the end of the season.”
Escalon was scheduled to be at Modesto Christian for a Tuesday night game, 6 p.m., on April 24 after The Times went to press and will host the Crusaders on Wednesday, April 25 at 4 p.m.