It was Hilmar week for the baseball Cougars and the varsity fell in extra innings at home, then lost to the Yellowjackets on the road.
Opening up the series in Escalon with a Wednesday, April 13 game, head coach Greg Largent said things started off well for the home team.
“It was kind of a crazy game, we took the lead in the third,” Largent said.
Escalon went up 2-0 as, with one out, Colton Page singled and stole a base, then came in to score on a Cam Ruiz RBI single. JP Lial put down a sacrifice bunt to get Ruiz to second, Nico Franzia worked out a walk and Mark Valente came through with an RBI single.
But the two-run lead was short-lived.
“It has been the underlying story all year,” admitted Largent. “They scored two in the top of the fourth to tie it; there was an error, a sacrifice fly, a couple of hits.”
Hilmar added two more in the sixth to go up 4-2, but Escalon chipped away and got one back in the bottom of the frame.
Franzia walked, stole a base, moved up on a ground out and then scored on a wild pitch to make it 4-3. Hilmar made it a 6-3 lead with three walks and an error in the top of the seventh.
“That put us behind 6-3,” Largent said.
Escalon mounted a comeback, though, and sent the game into extra innings with a three-run bottom of the seventh.
Orion Hoover walked, followed by an out; Page walked, followed by an out; pinch hitter Josh Miller walked to load the bases. Franzia then delivered the bases loaded double to left center field that scored the three runs and made it 6-6.
The teams battled through the eighth inning and Hilmar scored three runs on a two out bases loaded double to make it 9-6 in the top of the ninth.
“We went quietly in the ninth,” said Largent, taking the loss.
Ruiz had a solid game, with a diving catch in the outfield and a 2-for-5 day at the plate. Franzia had a hit and drove in three runs.
Mark Valente got the start and went five-and-a-third innings with Parker Saunders coming in for an inning and two-thirds.
“Orion Hoover pitched two innings and ended up with the loss but he got us out of a couple of jams,” noted Largent.
The game also saw a collision of Cougars, Valente and Jamin Miller both going after a foul ball near first base and colliding.
Largent said Hilmar also had a hard-throwing pitcher, with 20 of the 27 outs for the Cougars in the game coming via strikeout.
Thursday at Hilmar, the game moved up a day due to the Good Friday observance on April 15, saw the Cougars take a 9-3 loss. It was another contest that was decided late.
“It was 1-1 through the sixth,” Largent said. “Then we gave up eight runs in the bottom of the sixth, we had four errors and they strung some hits together.”
Jamin Miller started out the mound and pitched a strong five innings; Josh Fiori went the final inning for the Cougars.
Escalon had just a couple of hits on the day, with Cam Ruiz getting a single, Alfonso Gonzalez had a bunt single.
The varsity boys will have a break from league play this week but are scheduled to take part in the Windemuth Tournament being hosted at Modesto High School. Games are slated against Turlock Christian, Patterson and Modesto Christian in pool play.
While the varsity team took a pair of losses to Hilmar, the JV Cougars got two wins against the Yellowjackets.
“It was a pretty exciting two games,” said coach Ken Baptista.
Wednesday started out as a pitcher’s duel through the first few innings, with Hilmar leading by a 3-2 score. The visiting Hilmar JV team added three more runs in the top of the seventh; with two out in the inning they hit a bases clearing triple to go up 6-2.
“We ended up scoring four runs in the bottom of the seventh,” Baptista said of tying it up and sending it to extra innings.
Freshman Hayden McPherson hit the RBI single to center to score the tying run.
Hilmar was kept off the scoreboard in the eighth and Escalon capitalized on a misplayed fly ball in the bottom of the inning to score the walk off winning run.
After an out in the eighth, Nate Krieger singled, Treye Ingram put down a bunt base hit, and Jackson Runnels hit the ball that was misplayed in the outfield, bringing in the winning run.
For the game, Ian Burk had an RBI single and was 2-for-4 on the day. Gregg Adams had a two-RBI single; Krieger went 3-for-4 with a double and two singles.
The JV boys had 10 hits as a team.
Runnels also pitched six innings, allowing four hits and three runs.
At Hilmar on Thursday, it was a back and forth contest, ultimately ending with a 12-10 JV Cougar win. They also rapped out 12 hits. Wyatt Cox went three-and-a-third innings for the win.
Zackary Finta was 2-for-6 in the game and drove in a pair of runs. Adams was 3-for-5 with two RBI; Burk had a two-RBI double; Krieger was 2-for-4 with two runs driven in.
Escalon scored a run in the first and Hilmar tied it up, then Escalon went up 5-1 in the second. Another run for the Cougars made it 6-1 and Hilmar scored four in the fourth to make it 6-5.
Escalon added one more to go up 7-5 and then added five runs in the top of seventh, extending the lead to 12-5.
Making a game of it, Hilmar scored five runs in the bottom of the seventh, getting to within 12-10.
Escalon, however, held on for the victory.
Burk got the save in relief of Adams and Baptista pointed to the solid catching of Krieger and a couple of hustling base hits as helping power the squad.
The JV boys improved to 10-5 overall with the wins this week; 5-3 in TVL, in second place.
They are off this week but will play a pair of non-league games, against Central Valley of Ceres, on the road April 26 and at home April 28, then host Linden on Saturday, April 30.