Little Escalon plays big, defends crown

Escalon High knew it was going to be short on pitching Thursday, so The Bee's top-ranked small-school baseball team used its potent hitters to win the Windemuth Classic for the second year in a row.

Aaron Pangilinan's two-run homer sparked a six-run fifth inning, and the Cougars scored three more in the seventh to lock up a 10-4 victory over Downey for the crown.

Escalon (12-2) had 12 hits, 11 singles and Pangilinan's first homer. A high ankle sprain sent Pangilinan to the bench early in the spring. This was only his third start of the season.

Escalon was 3-0 vs. Modesto Metro Conference teams in the tourney, and also beat the first-place team from the Central California Conference. With only about 900 students, Escalon is about half the size of those schools.

"We ran the gauntlet," said Escalon coach Greg Largent, whose club beat Modesto, Davis and Turlock to earn its berth in the final. "We knew our pitching would be thin by (Thursday), so the guys knew we'd need to get some runs."

After using its three regular starters early in the week, Largent was ready to manage his staff inning by inning. It appeared that Largent might be busy, considering how the game looked after the first.

Escalon got in a hole early as Downey took advantage of Justin Martinez's wildness to score two in the first. Downey had the bases loaded with one out after scoring two, but couldn't push any more runs across the plate.

Martinez (4-1), who threw five innings Monday, recovered quickly. He didn't allow a hit while shutting out Downey over the next three innings, then Brandon Shaw came in for three innings of relief.

"Justin had the most rest of our starters, so the plan was to use him so long as he was effective," Largent said. "He did a fantastic job after getting through that bad patch."

Escalon began the day batting .348 and averaging eight runs a game, but it was facing Downey's hottest hurler: Bobby Schauer, who had beaten Beyer by throwing a seven-hit shutout last week.

Schauer sailed through four innings, allowing just a run before the Cougars began smacking the ball in the fifth. Spencer Franceschetti's two-run single put Escalon ahead, then Pangilinan hit one out of the park to give Escalon a 7-2 lead.

"All the kids came up to Justin after that first inning and told him 'Don't worry about it, we're going to score some runs for you,' " Largent noted.

"We didn't get down after that first inning, and you're always glad to see your kids rally the way we did today."

Downey (11-6) was able to create some drama in the sixth inning when Greg Escobar's two-run homer cut it to 7-4. But the Cougars built their lead to six runs in the seventh.

Patrick Mulry's RBI single made it 8-4, then a two-run fielding error made it 10-4.