Escalon shuts out Livingston

LODI -- After seeing sophomore left-hander Matt Valencia dominate Livingston on Saturday, the future looks bright for Escalon High baseball.

The present looks good, too.

Escalon scored five runs in the first and Valencia fired a two-hitter to beat Livingston 10-0 to open the three-game semifinal series in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division 5 playoffs.

Central Catholic, which has won 10 straight section titles, opened its series by blasting Linden 14-7 behind two home runs from Billy Flamion.

Those same teams will be at Zupo Field next week: Escalon playing Monday at 4 p.m. and Central Catholic playing Tuesday at 4.

If Escalon or Central lose, a winner-take-all third game follows. The survivors play on Memorial Day.

Livingston's (20-7) abundance of left-handed hitting played a role in Escalon coach Greg Largent's call to start Valencia (8-1).

The Wolves had five lefties in the lineup in last week's playoff opener and three vs. Escalon.

"Getting up by five early, Matt was able to pitch to contact and take advantage of a very spacious field," said Largent, noting that sophomore center fielder Patrick Mulry caught four balls.

"It says it's 378 (feet) to dead center and there's a lot of room for Patrick to roam around. This place definitely seems bigger than most places we play."

It wasn't so big that Nick Largent couldn't hit one over the fence. His homer sailed over the left-field fence and "I didn't think he got all of it," said Greg, Nick's father.

The Cougars (23-3) started fast, as Josh Miguel singled, Spencer Franceschetti worked a walk and Aaron Pangilinan singled to right for a 1-0 lead. After Largent was hit by a pitch, Mulry's double to right-center drove in two runs. Valencia later capped it with an RBI single.

Junior Brandon Shaw, who was dazzling on the mound two weeks ago in the Trans-Valley League-clinching win and again in last week's playoff opener, singled in two runs in the third to make it 7-0.

Shaw or senior lefty Justin Martinez will start Tuesday, and the other will throw if a third game is needed.

"We swing the bat better than most, and we're the sort of team where the hitting becomes contagious," said Largent, whose club is hitting .364 with 18 homers. "We can put some numbers up fast.

"We know that can come to an abrupt end, though, which is why the pitching is so important. Those guys can usually keep us in the game until we start hitting the ball."