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Varsity Baseball Tournament Run Ends With Championship
Spring break didn't mean a break from baseball for Escalon's varsity squad ...and the Cougars 'ran the gauntlet' to take top honors in the Windemuth Tournament, defeating Downey High School for the championship on Thursday afternoon.

Coach Greg Largent's team went 4-0 in the tournament, playing on Monday, a doubleheader on Wednesday and the Thursday title game. They were slated to start in Modesto with a 10 a.m. game Monday but the Sunday, April 4 rain forced a change. The Cougars hosted the game, with a 3:30 p.m. start at Escalon on April 5.

It was a 13-3 win for the host squad over Modesto High.

"We got six runs in the first," Largent said of jumping on top early.

Keys in that inning were an RBI double from Nick Largent and an RBI single from Matt Valencia.

"Nick hit a solo home run in the second to make it 7-0 before Modesto scored in the fourth on a three-run homer," Largent said. "But we got it right back, on a couple of walks, a sacrifice fly by Nick and an RBI single from Derrick DeFreitas in the bottom of the inning to make it 9-3."

Four more runs in the sixth put the game out of reach, with an RBI fielders choice from DeFreitas, a two-run single from Valencia and a sacrifice fly by Brandon Shaw to end the game on the 10-run rule.

Justin Martinez pitched and went the distance, scattering five hits and striking out six in his six innings of work. He allowed three walks and gave up three runs.

"We played pretty good defense all day," added Largent. "And we took advantage of 12 walks."

Escalon had 13 run on seven hits with no errors. Modesto had three runs, five hits and three errors.

Wednesday's doubleheader started with the number one ranked large school in the tournament, Turlock, with the Cougars taking a very competitive 7-4 win, playing at Downey.

"We were the home team and we got into immediate trouble," Largent explained. "We gave up a leadoff walk, then three consecutive singles that allowed a run to score."

With the bases loaded, starting pitcher Brandon Shaw got the Turlock hitter to ground into a 5-2-3 (third to catcher to first) double play, cutting off the run and accounting for two outs. The next batter hit a ground out, limiting Turlock to just one run.

"We minimized the damage," agreed Largent. "Then we scored two in the bottom half of the inning."

A sacrifice fly by Aaron Pangilinan followed a hit batter (Josh Miguel) and a double from Spencer Franceschetti. Largent also drove in a run with an RBI ground out to put Escalon up 2-1.

Trey Balber made it 3-1 Escalon with a solo home run in the second. Turlock tied it with two runs in the fourth, Escalon scored two in the bottom of the fourth to make it 5-3, RBI singles from Balber and Shaw plating the runs.

Turlock's final run scored on a safety squeeze in the sixth, making it 5-4, but Balber answered with a two-run blast in the bottom of the frame.

"It was a monster shot to deep left, it gave us those insurance runs we needed," Largent said of going up 7-4.

In the seventh, the Cougars got out of jam, with runners on second and third and two out, the hitter tagged a fly ball to right field that Valencia was able to track down, making a shoe string catch.

"He just came out of nowhere to get it," Largent said of the sparkling defensive play that ended the game. "This was a very well played game on our end, I was real proud of the kids."

Turlock boasts two players with full ride baseball scholarships, one who has committed to Oklahoma State and one to UCLA and Largent said there was a sense of Cougar pride in taking down the larger school.

Escalon had seven runs on eight hits with one error. Turlock had four runs on nine hits and no errors.

"Brandon pitched all seven innings and did a great job, eight strikeouts and two walks, one hit batter, the ground ball he got in the first was huge and we also got a double play in the third to get out of a jam."

Wednesday's second game saw the Cougars travel to play Davis at Davis, coming away with a 12-2 win. They scored two in the first, three in the fourth, three in the sixth and four in the seventh. Davis put two runs on the board in the fourth, on a leadoff homer and cashing in on a walk and an error for the second run.

Escalon got timely hits, put down some squeeze bunts and took advantage of Davis walks and errors to outdistance the competition.

Matt Valencia went all seven innings to get the win, striking out 12, allowing just two runs on five hits. He had one walk and hit one batter.

Escalon rapped out 10 hits to go along with its 12 runs. Each team committed four errors.

"By winning that game, it put us into the championship game vs. Downey and we lost the coin flip so we were the visitors," Largent said.

The 3:30 p.m. game at Downey on Thursday didn't start very well. In the bottom of the first, starter Justin Martinez had a hard time finding the strike zone.

"He had a tough time getting comfortable," admitted Largent. "He walked four and hit a batter. He didn't yield a hit but they scored two."

Even then, Largent said the team rallied behind their pitcher.

"The guys just told him to relax, that they would get him some runs," Largent said.

One run came in the second, Patrick Mulry reaching on a single, stealing second, taking third on a fielders choice and scoring on Balber's sacrifice fly to make it 2-1.

Martinez found his groove and kept Downey off the board through the next three innings and the Cougars made plenty of noise in the top of the fifth, leading 7-2 before that frame was over. The big blow was a two-run homer over the left field fence from Pangilinan, along with RBI singles from Miguel and Franceschetti (two RBI) and a sacrifice fly by Mulry, which scored Largent. He had been hit by a pitch and then stole second and third.

Downey added two runs in the sixth off reliever Shaw but three more from Escalon in the seventh made it 10-4. Mulry drove in a run after Pangilinan had doubled and James Hill also came up with an RBI single to cap the scoring.

Downey threatened, loading the bases in the bottom of the seventh but a pop up, handled by second baseman Miguel, ended the game and the Cougars had the championship.

Martinez went four innings and didn't allow a hit; Shaw went the final three and scattered four hits with two strikeouts.

Pangilinan was 2-for-4 with two RBI, Miguel was 3-for-5, Franceschetti was 2-for-4 with a couple of RBI and Mulry was 2-for-3 with two RBI in the game. Franceschetti also got caught in a rundown in the fifth inning but ended up being safe at first, staying in it long enough for a run to score, then bowling over the pitcher in the baseline, knocking the ball from his glove, scrambling safely back to first.

"It was just a total team effort," Largent said of sweeping the week's competition. "The chemistry right now is just phenomenal."

Largent said when he saw the pairings, it looked like the Cougars "were set up for failure," facing off with the larger schools and higher division teams.

"You want to go and you want to compete," he said. "We ran the gauntlet ... the boys are saying, 'throw anybody at us' but it's a confidence, more than a cockiness.

"I think they're out to prove something."