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Varsity Baseball Swept Up In Tsunami Evacuation
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Escalon's varsity baseball boys aren't likely to forget their 'team bonding' trip to the coast this year. They headed to an Aptos beach house on Thursday after school and woke up to an evacuation on Friday morning as a tsunami warning forced them to move to higher ground.

"I was hooking up the TV about 11 p.m. Thursday to check the weather (for Friday's game) and they were just reporting on it," head coach Greg Largent said of the deadly earthquake that struck Japan and the associated tsunami danger to the U.S.

The team did have to move to Seascape for a few hours while the waves were at their peak but there was no damage to the home they had rented for the weekend trip.

"It looked like a science fiction movie, there was this big undertow, you could look out 500, 600 yards and then watch it take the water out," Largent explained of the effect the tsunami had in the area where they were staying.

Once the danger passed, the Cougars were able to return to the beach house and then get a pair of games in, one each on Friday and Saturday, followed by an afternoon scrimmage on Saturday as well.

They had started the week here, with a game against Manteca on Tuesday, March 8 and took a 5-0 win.

"We saw some real good pitching from Manteca, both pitchers (Manteca and Escalon) were throwing strikes," Largent said.

Aaron Pangilinan crushed a "majestic leadoff home run" in the second inning and the Cougars held a 1-0 lead through the sixth inning.

"They made a pitching change and we put four runs on the board," said Largent.

A double by Patrick Mulry and singles in the inning from Pangilinan, Robbie Steves, Matt Roberson and Gino Franceschetti accounted for the scoring.

Matt Valencia got the start and went five strong innings, allowing three hits and striking out six. Brandon Shaw pitched the final two, striking out one and walking one.

On Friday afternoon, the Cougars faced off with Aptos and fell in a 2-0 contest.

"They were a very good team, they didn't make mistakes and they manufactured a couple of runs," Largent said. "They had a no-hitter going until the seventh, Patrick Mulry broke it up with a hit."

Tyler Vitale went five innings and allowed two hits. The team also got some nice defensive work in right field by James Hill, nearly cutting down a runner at the plate on a nice one-hop strike.

Saturday morning, the Cougars squared off with Pacific Grove and got a 4-3 win there.

"We were supposed to play two, but we ended up doing a split squad scrimmage after the game, that gave us a chance to get a lot of people some playing time," Largent said.

Shaw started and gave up single tallies to Pacific Grove in the first, second and third innings, but pitched a solid six innings in all, giving way to Pangilinan in the seventh. Shaw got a bases loaded double play ball to get out of trouble in the fifth.

Trey Balber was 2-for-3 with an RBI single, Pangilinan was 3-for-3 with a pair of home runs, a solo shot in the third inning that was over 420 feet and the game-winning blast in the sixth. Jake Hood had a nice play in the outfield and the weekend also saw some players getting to play at different positions, with Balber spending some time at third and Pangilinan doing a little catching.

In the scrimmage, Derek Velting got in some work on the mound, as did Mulry and Roberson, with back up catchers Josh Vandagriff and Ben Sipes seeing some time behind the dish. James Hill and Tyler Vitale each rapped out a triple in the scrimmage.

This week, weather permitting, the JV and varsity squads will be home to host Downey on Thursday, March 17, the JVs head to Enochs to play on Friday and the varsity will take on Chowchilla in a game at St. Mary's on Saturday.