The underside of Leighton Pangilinan's baseball cap is getting crowded.
The Escalon High senior catcher has used a Sharpie to write notes to himself on the bill, but has reserved one corner to keep a running tally of his home runs.
His three-run blast in the fifth inning of Friday's game was his Northern California-leading eighth of the season and opened the floodgates as the Cougars rolled over Ripon Christian 18-8 in a six-inning game to stay unbeaten this season.
Here's the kind of season Pangilinan is having: his 2-for-4 performance actually lowered his batting average from .515 to .514. And if hitting is contagious, the whole Cougars' lineup is in the throes of batting fever.
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Eight of the nine spots in the order had two or more hits against the Knights, finishing with 23 hits over their six turns. Nine of those hits came in the sixth inning, when the Cougars scored seven runs to trigger the mercy rule.
"Our lineup is great," Pangilinan said. "We had a good lineup last year, but this season we have good power throughout the lineup. We have great speed at the top of the order, and we're stacked all the way up and down."
How's this for a lineup? Pangilinan's little brother Aaron, a sophomore, had four hits and drove in four runs, and is hitting .405 while batting sixth in the order. Freshman Josh Miguel is hitting .333 from the leadoff spot, fellow frosh Patrick Mulry is hitting .421 and bats eighth, and junior Nick Largent leads the team with a .526 average.
Put it all together and you have the Trans-Valley League version of Murderer's Row, an attack that will carry a .367 team batting average and a 12-0 record into its next game.
"We can swing the bat and that saves us," said coach Greg Largent. "It's probably the best lineup we've ever had here, and Bob Loureiro has said that."
Loureiro would know, having compiled a record of 604-357 in 42 years as Escalon's baseball coach before handing the reins to Largent.
"Still, you have to make the plays and you have to throw strikes, and this is two games in a row where we dug ourselves a hole," Largent said.
Yes, before Friday's game was ended by mercy rule, it was a contest. And when Ripon Christian (2-10 overall, 0-6 TVL) got doubles in both the first and third innings from Steve VanderMolen while taking a 5-0 lead, there was some doubt in the sun-drenched bleachers.
Escalon got consecutive two-out RBI hits from Aaron Pangilinan, Derrick Defreitas and Mulry to slice the gap to 5-4 in the third, and took a 7-5 lead in the fourth on RBI hits from Largent and Aaron Pangilinan.
RC left the bases loaded while scoring in the fifth to make it 7-6, but Leighton Pangilinan came up with two on and one out in the bottom of the inning, and squared up an off-speed pitch, driving it over the foul pole in right for a 10-6 lead.
"It was outside and I was crowding the plate expecting them to pitch me outside," he said. "I'm a pull hitter most of the time and it's a good thing the wind wasn't blowing in today."
With an open base, the Knights actually had to choose to pitch to Pangilinan in that situation. But pitch around him, and Largent awaits.
"Leighton has been our leader this year and it's very nice that we have hitters around him this year," said Greg Largent. "Our No. 4 and 5 guys are swinging the bat right now, so teams have to pick their poison."
And in Escalon right now, there's a lot of poison to go around.
Bee staff writer Brian VanderBeek can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2300.