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Spring Break Tournament Championship For Varsity Cougars
Four games over four days all went in the win column for the varsity baseball Cougars, taking top honors in the Spring Break Art McRae Tournament in Ceres.

They played on Monday, April 25; took on a doubleheader Wednesday, April 27 and wrapped it up with the championship game on Thursday, April 28.

"Very successful, we ended up winning it and it was a 16-team round robin tournament," said coach Greg Largent.

In the opener, Escalon faced off with Ceres and took a 9-4 victory.

An Aaron Pangilinan double drove in Patrick Mulry in the first inning with two outs, giving the Cougars a 1-0 lead. But Ceres scored three in the third and one in the fourth to get the lead.

"We got out of a huge jam," Largent said of escaping the fourth with minimal damage.

With one out and two strikes on the batter, Ceres went for the suicide squeeze but the ball was popped up. Catcher Trey Balber caught the pop up and tagged out the runner charging home from third for an unusual unassisted double play.

Down 4-1, the play sparked the Cougar offense and they climbed to within one, 4-3, in the fifth, with a single from Robbie Steves, an error, a walk, and an RBI ground out getting two runs in.

"In the sixth, we sent nine batters to the plate and scored five runs," added Largent.

Big hits were doubles from Mulry, Matt Valencia, Steves and James Hill, with singles from Pangilinan and Josh Miguel.

A single run in the seventh gave Escalon some insurance, Mulry getting on with a single, moving to second on a passed ball, going to third on an infield single and scoring on a Jake Hood RBI.

Escalon had 10 hits with their nine runs, Ceres had four runs on 12 hits with two errors.

Pangilinan went the distance, nine strikeouts, four walks and 133 pitches thrown in getting the win.

Wednesday, the team traveled to Central Valley in Ceres for a pair, defeating Central Valley in the opener 9-3.

Brandon Shaw was the winning pitcher, allowing three hits and three runs. Pangilinan had an RBI single, an RBI double, Mulry had a solo homer, Miguel added a couple hits and a sacrifice fly, with a sacrifice bunt by Hill, Balber with a hit and Gino Franceschetti with an RBI single.

The second game on Wednesday pitted the Cougars against a Division II team out of Walnut Creek, Northgate.

"I've never seen a team cheer and talk and sing like they did," Largent said. "And it was a boys team."

The early chatter was quieted a bit by the Cougar bats, as they struck for three runs in the first inning, the crucial blow a two-RBI hit from Steves.

Escalon went on to take a shutout win, 10-0, but Largent said the Northgate squad was a good one, providing solid competition despite the lopsided final score.

"There were some defensive highlights," said Largent. "Aaron Pangilinan was catching and he got a back pick, the runner from second got too far off and Aaron picked him off. Also, Matt Valencia, the pitcher, picked off two runners we had walked."

Valencia got the win, striking out six in the contest and allowing no runs.

Offensive highlight for Escalon was a three-run homer by Mulry to dead center. Mulry was 2-for-4 with a homer and triple, Pangilinan was 4-for-4 with a double.

"Trey just a missed a grand slam, it went for a ground rule double," Largent added of the solid offensive output by his team.

In the championship game on Thursday, the Cougars ended up facing off with Central Valley again. With some tired arms, Mulry got his first start of the year on the mound.

"He went two-plus, then Matt Roberson came in," said Largent.

The final was an 18-9 decision for Escalon on a very windblown day. Central Valley scored two in the first, Escalon answered with two. Central Valley scored three in the second, Escalon answered with three of their own.

"In the third, they got two runs and in the fourth, we erupted," Largent said. "We sent 11 batters to the plate and got six runs to take an 11-7 lead."

Balber had a two-run double, with RBIs from Valencia and Pangilinan in that inning as well.

Central Valley chipped away with two runs in the fifth, 11-9, but the Cougars put it out of reach with a five-run uprising in the seventh and added more in the sixth.

"We only gave up nine hits, we had 19 and we had two errors," noted Largent. "Central Valley also took advantage of nine walks and three hit batters."

Offensively, the Cougars got plenty of production. Miguel was 3-for-3 with a triple, Mulry, 3-for-5 with a double, Franceschetti 2-for-3, Pangilinan, 4-for-4 with three doubles and four RBI; Valencia, 2-for-5, two doubles and two RBI; Balber, 3-for-5 with two doubles; Shaw, a pair of RBI; and Steves, a double and an RBI.

"Those four wins put our record at 20 wins and three losses and we have two weeks remaining," explained Largent. "It was good to be pushed ... now we think about the playoffs."