It was the ‘thrill of victory’ and ‘the agony of defeat’ for Escalon on the baseball diamond this past week – but the Cougars did it in the opposite order.
Head coach Greg Largent noted that the varsity boys were on the road to face off with Ripon on March 26 and were humbled in a 13-3 loss but came back with grit and determination on Thursday. They hosted the Indians on March 28 and squeezed out a 2-1 win in eight innings.
“Tuesday, we scored two runs in the first and had the bases loaded with one out but then took two strikeouts,” Largent said.
Still, the early lead, courtesy of a single, hit batter and three walks, put the Cougars seemingly in good positon.
Bryce McPherrin set the Indians down with a 12 pitch bottom of the first. Escalon went quietly in the top of the second and then it unraveled.
“We gave up eight runs in the bottom of the second, an error and then five straight walks,” Largent said of McPherrin unable to return to his first inning form.
Ty Harris came in and struggled as well, with a couple of walks and a hit batter, with Carson George then inserted as the third pitcher of the inning. The Indians got a walk, a sacrifice fly and a single and before the inning was over a 2-0 lead turned in to an 8-2 deficit. Bright spot of the inning was an outfield assist for Dylan Ruiz, making a catch in center and throwing out a runner at the plate.
Lucca Dutra homered in the third for Escalon’s final run of the day.
Ripon added two in the fourth to go up 10-3.
“They scored three runs with two outs in the fifth and walked us off,” Largent said of the 10-run rule. “That’s the first time in my career that has happened in league.”
Escalon had just two hits and of their 15 outs, 10 were by strikeout, six of those looking. The coach said George did a good job coming in and keeping things under control, throwing strikes, but the deficit was too big to overcome.
“That was a tough one to swallow on their field, a rivalry game,” admitted Largent. “It was a tough lesson but the boys took it head on and they played a great game on Thursday, it was a playoff like atmosphere.”
Both pitchers were dealing on Thursday, battling wind and occasional rain, both keep the opposition under control. Cole Gilbert started for Escalon and the teams were scoreless into the seventh inning.
After an out in the top of the seventh, the Indians put together a walk, a stolen base and an RBI double to take a 1-0 lead. That was all they would get, though, and the Cougars came in for their final regulation at bat.
“We didn’t go without a fight,” said Largent.
After a strikeout, Clayton Ferreira got a single, Noah Rast went in to pinch run. Ethan Johnson came on as a pinch hitter and switched places with Rast on a fielder’s choice. He then got to second on a wild pitch and pinch hitter Roman Gonzalez worked out a full count. He hit a comebacker to the pitcher, which went off the tip of his glove and headed toward second. A hurried throw to try and get Gonzalez went wide and Johnson kept running, coming in with the tying run.
“The kids were excited, it was almost like it was the winning run,” Largent said.
The game went into the eighth inning tied and Johnson went out to the mound.
“He did some growing up real fast,” Largent noted, going in for the pressure situation and throwing strikes.
Gilbert, at first after throwing seven innings, made a leaping grab of a ball headed toward right field for the first out, Dutra collected a line out and Johnson struck out the third batter of the inning.
In Escalon’s bottom of the eighth, Dutra singled with one out and Gilbert lined a single to left. On an 0-2 pitch, Devin Roberson was hit by a pitch to load the bases.
Nash Satnat stepped in and with the count 2-1, that’s when the decision was made for what turned in to the winning play.
“Harold (assistant coach Harold Hood) gets the assist,” Largent said of the Cougars putting on the squeeze play. “We work on that and we had a lot of trust in Nash in getting it done.”
As the 2-1 pitch game in, Dutra dashed down the line from third and Satnat put the bat on the ball, sending it just a few feet from home as Dutra crossed the plate with the winning run.
“It was a lot of fun, win or lose, I am proud of the way we bounced back,” Largent said. “It was just a little more sweet because it was against Ripon. Everybody was on Cloud Nine.”
Gilbert struck out 13, walked two and scattered three hits in throwing 109 pitches. He also had two hits while Ferreira, Dutra, Gonzalez, Satnat and Clay Evans had one hit each.
“It was fun,” Largent added of wrapping up the week with the ‘thrill of victory’ for the team. “The kids were all excited.”
This week’s games will pit the Cougars against Livingston; they were scheduled to host them on Tuesday, April 2 after The Times went to press and travel to face the Wolves on Thursday, April 4. They also have a Saturday game, weather permitting, in Half Moon Bay at 11 a.m.