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Varsity Baseball Victories Sweep Of Modesto Christian Keeps Cougars On Top
Two games that were vastly different, yet played against the same opponent, made up the week for Escalon's varsity baseball team. The boys won both games, defeating Modesto Christian by scores of 1-0 and 11-1.

On the road against host MC on Wednesday, April 28, the game went into extra innings before the Cougars came home with the win.

"The elements were just horrible," said coach Greg Largent. "It was a windy day, there were showers off and on, that wind was blowing in and it was just an old-fashioned ball game, we ended up winning 1-0 in eight innings."

There were several opportunities throughout the contest that the Cougars didn't capitalize on, Largent added, but luckily, it didn't come back to haunt them.

"Hits were at a minimum," he said. "We had only two hits."

The Cougars got leadoff singles, in the second from Patrick Mulry, and in the fourth from Nick Largent, to account for their only two hits.

Cougar pitcher Brandon Shaw allowed the same, giving up just two hits to Modesto Christian.

"Brandon took a perfect game into the seventh," Largent said. "Both pitchers did a superb job."

Escalon's lone run came in the top of the eighth. Josh Miguel walked and stole second, scoring on a hard smash by Spencer Franceschetti that got past the second baseman when he couldn't field it cleanly.

"Josh was able to score," Largent said of the one run. "We had opportunities to score in the second and fourth, couldn't push a run through. In the sixth and seventh, we couldn't get the hit, we even had some sacrifice bunts and a couple of steals."

The eighth inning run held up, though Modesto Christian threatened in the bottom of the extra frame.

"After one out in the eighth, there was an infield single, then Travis Cardoza made an unassisted play at first base. He threw it to second, where Spencer was waiting with the glove on the bag but as the runner slid in, the umpire called him safe," Largent explained.

Based on the reaction from his middle infielders, Largent said it appeared as though the runner was out, and as he headed out to protest the call, the runner took off for third. Franceschetti threw it to Aaron Pangilinan at third, with the runner then caught in the pickle. Patrick Mulry snuck in from center field to take Pangilinan's throw and tagged the runner out trying to get back to second, recording the final out of the game.

"Just your typical 3-6-5-8 put out," Largent said, chuckling over the bizarre finish to the game. "We played great defense all day again and Brandon was phenomenal."

Largent also gave kudos to the MC pitcher, who had 13 strikeouts against the Cougars.

Shaw went eight innings, with eight strikeouts, two hits and no walks. Escalon had one run on two hits, no errors. Modesto Christian had no runs, two hits and three errors.

Friday, on the home field facing the same Crusaders team, the Cougars found themselves down early but came back with a vengeance for an 11-1 win in a game that went just six innings.

"After two pitches, we were down 1-0," Largent said.

Starter Matt Valencia got the first batter to fly out to second on the first pitch of the game, but the second batter hit a long home run to give the visitors the early lead.

Escalon tied it up in the bottom of the first, Franceschetti reaching on an error and advancing on a ground out, scoring on Mulry's RBI single.

"In the second, we took control and scored eight more," Largent said.

Keys were an RBI double from Miguel, a 2-run single by Pangilinan and a huge battle by Largent, who eventually worked out a walk in a 16-pitch at-bat, after fouling off more than half a dozen pitches and just missing a home run down the left field line, as it sliced foul. His at bat kept the inning alive, and set up RBIs from Mulry, Derrick DeFreitas and a bases loaded, two out, three-RBI double from Valencia.

"We put it on cruise control, emptied the benches," Largent said. "We got runs in the fifth and sixth, James Hill got the knock out hit in the sixth."

After a Tym Blair ground out, Justin Martinez went up as a pinch hitter and got a walk. Matt Hudson walked and Miguel singled to load the bases.

"Hill then had an RBI single and that hit ended the game," Largent said of the 10-run rule, as the Cougars had an 11-1 lead.

Escalon had 11 runs on 12 hits with no errors. Modesto Christian had one run, three hits and four errors.

"Matt Valencia went the distance, he did a great job," said Largent.

Valencia had six innings pitched, allowing one run on three hits, with nine strikeouts and two walks.

The wins left Escalon at 10-1 in Trans-Valley League play with four games to go. They are 18-2 overall and have a two-game lead on both Ripon and Ripon Christian for the top spot in league.

"We have a two-game set with Ripon and two with Ripon Christian the following week," Largent said of facing off with their closest competitors to end the league campaign. "We control our own destiny. One more win will get us a playoff spot but the boys won't be satisfied with that."

The squad will be at Ripon on Wednesday, May 5 and host the Indians on Friday. Along with aiming to retain the TVL title, the boys want to get deep into the playoffs, after an opening round exit last season.

"They've got some scores to settle," Largent agreed. "And for our seniors, this is their last shot."