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Tough Linden Squad Ends Cougars Postseason
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Two games for Escalon in the second round of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV playoffs both went down on the books as losses, closing out the season against Linden.

"They are a good team, we beat them twice early in the year but they brought up a couple of good JV kids and it really strengthened them," said Escalon head coach Bob Loureiro.

Escalon defeated Golden Sierra in the opening round and went on to face Linden, falling in the first game of a best two-out-of-three contest on Monday, May 24 by an 11-8 final. The teams met again on Tuesday, May 25, with the Cougars needing a two-game sweep, but Linden had their number again and knocked Escalon out of the playoffs with a 5-4 win.

In the Monday contest, visiting Linden jumped out to an early 3-0 lead, blasting a three-run homer in the first inning after two out.

"We scored two in the third to make it 3-2," Loureiro said.

Jesse Miguel singled and stole second, Ross Brayton doubled to drive him in. Jonny Norton went in to pinch run for Brayton and he came around to score on a K.J. Vandagriff RBI single.

Linden, however, kept the pressure on with two runs in the fourth and one more in the fifth for a 6-2 lead before Escalon scratched back for a run in the fifth.

Brian Lynn walked with two outs, Nate Williamson singled, Peter Krumeich singled to load the bases and Anthony Suniga drew the bases loaded walk to notch the RBI.

The Lions erupted for five runs in the top of the sixth to take what appeared to be a commanding 11-3 lead, but the Cougars would not go quietly at Zupo Field in Lodi.

"It was a really hard fought game, the kids just never quit," said Loureiro.

Escalon scored two in the sixth, Colin Riggs reaching on a single and moving to second on a passed ball, then scoring on an RBI single from Miguel. Brayton walked, Lynn singled to drive in Riggs.

"We left the bases loaded," noted Loureiro, though the runs pulled Escalon within 11-5.

Linden was held scoreless in the seventh and Escalon rallied for three more runs in their half of the inning before ultimately falling 11-8. Key hits in the inning included a single by Brian Beeman, a double from Miguel and a sacrifice fly from Brayton.

"That gave us hope for Tuesday," Loureiro said of the battle in the Monday contest. "They just got that big jump on us in the first."

Escalon sent Mike Johansen to the mound to start, he was roughed up for five runs over three innings. Grant Goedhart came on and also found the going tough, allowing six runs in two innings. Joey Pinasco pitched the final two innings.

"He did a pretty good job, he hadn't pitched this year and he gave up just one hit," Loureiro said.

Vandagriff drove in three runs on the day, Brayton had a double and two RBIs.

Tuesday, back in Lodi, the Cougars were the home team and again got in an early hole, Linden breaking out for two runs in the bottom of the first.

"For us, Jesse Miguel led off the game with a double but we didn't bring him in," Loureiro said. "Linden, after one out, got a player on with an error and then had a two-run homer, the long ball hurt us right there."

Escalon tied the score with single runs in the fourth and fifth, Linden countered with two in the sixth but Escalon rallied to tie it in the top of the seventh.

In the fourth for the Cougars, Lynn singled, Williamson moved him to second with a sacrifice bunt and Krumeich drove him in with a single. Fifth inning scoring came with one out, Miguel was hit by a pitch and came home on Vandagriff's double.

Linden regained the lead in the sixth, capitalizing on a pair of Cougar errors, a walk and a sacrifice, combined with two hits, to score two runs.

That put them up by a 4-2 score headed to the top of the seventh.

"With one out, Miguel was hit by a pitch, Brayton singled, Lynn singled to drive in Miguel and then Brayton scored on an error," Loureiro said of tying the score, hoping for extra innings.

The tough Lions got their leadoff hitter on in the bottom of the seventh with a walk on a 3-2 pitch, then he went to third base on a single. An intentional walk followed to load the bases. After one out, Linden's hitter lofted a fly ball deep to the outfield, too deep to catch the man tagging up at third and scoring the winning run.

Zachary Swass took the hard luck loss in the season finale, scattering six hits while striking out three and walking two. Only two of Linden's five runs were earned.

"We had three errors and they were errors that hurt," noted Loureiro.

Lynn paced the final effort with a 2-for-3 night, driving in two runs.

And despite falling in the semifinals, Loureiro said his Cougars hung tough and should be proud of that effort.

"For the (postseason) tournament, Miguel ended his career terrifically, he had six hits and was 6-for-10 in the tournament," Loureiro said. "He stole a couple of bases, had a couple of doubles."

Lynn and Vandagriff also got high marks for their offensive efforts during the three postseason games and Brayton, solid all season behind the plate for Escalon, gunned down two runners attempting to steal in the final game.

The Cougars end the season with a 21-8 overall mark and Loureiro, retiring after 42 years of coaching baseball at EHS, goes out with a 604-357 record.

"A lot of games, a lot of support," he said. "Greg Largent has just done an outstanding job for me these last few years as assistant coach and Steve French, coaching our JV kids, fantastic."

Loureiro said it's still a bit hard to fathom that he has hung up the cleats for good.

"I probably won't feel it until the start of next season," he admitted.