STOCKTON — Bret Harte seniors Josh Lane, Isaac Abraham and Joey Kraft were some of the last players to exit Billy Hebert Field Thursday night.
The Bullfrogs baseball season came to an end with a 10-0 five-inning loss to top seed Escalon and it was something the seniors were trying to delay.
“We came into this game not wanting it to be our last,” Abraham said. “A lot of things didn’t go our way, but we just didn’t want this to end.”
The No. 8 Bullfrogs battled the Cougars tough for four innings, but Escalon looked every bit the top seed with pitching and hitting.
The Bullfrogs couldn’t find success against Cougar Justice Naraghi. The hard throwing righty, who’s throwing motion looked like he recevied lessons from Boston Red Sox ace Chris Sale, kept Bret Harte without a hit. He did hit three batters and walk one, but allowed zero to cross the plate.
“He had a lot of confidence, but it helps,” said Lane, knowing what it’s like to dominate on the mound. “He had some good stuff, he fooled us a lot. He was unorthodox, confusing. A lot of flinging around, but it got us.”
Bret Harte had chances to score, but mental mistakes and balls hard hit ball went right to Escalon defenders.
Abraham and Kraft hit hard fly balls to right field to lead off the game. Both outs. Lane followed with a smash one-hopper to second base. Three up, three down.
“Hitting the ball hard at people is the worst,” Lane said. “You square up the ball but hit it right at someone, you just can’t control that.”
Escalon scored two runs in the first, with the help of an error, but sophomore starting pitcher Ryan Mercado limited the damage with help from Abraham.
The center fielder from deep center fired a cannon shot to gun down a runner at third base.
The lefty pitched well around a few defensive miscues and kept the Bullfrogs close early.
Ryan Kraft lead off the second with a walk but was doubled off first base after Seth Bakke smacked a liner that was snagged by the second baseman. Freshman James Avecilla was then drilled in the torso by a fastball that sounded like it made solid contact, but Bret Harte couldn’t take advantage.
The Cougars put three more on the board in the third with help from a couple of errors. But another defensive gem limited the damage.
Ryan Kraft fired home to his brother and catcher Joey Kraft to cut down a baserunner.
Bret Harte had two runners on in the fifth, but a base runner was caught too far off base and was picked off by the Escalon catcher.
Mercado tired in the fifth. He was relieved by Cody Roessler with the bases loaded.
Escalon scored five runs to end the game.
“First four innings we battled,” said Bret Harte head coach Mike Avecilla. “We made a couple of mistakes, mistakes that could have taken runs off the board for us. Once we got into the fifth, I anticipated us taking this to seven innings. But unfortunately, Mercado got a little tired, and Cody came in, and he’s facing a powerhouse of a hitting team.”
Bret Harte finishes the season 15-10 overall .
The Bullfrog seniors — Lane, Abraham, Joey Kraft, Joe Small and Zack Scott — played their final game in the purple and gold.
The players didn’t want the end to come, but they realize they’ll always remember this season, which included winning a playoff game for the first time in several years. The Bullfrogs also beat Calaveras for the first time in awhile, swept Argonaut after not beating the Mustangs for years and took down MLL champ Linden.
“I’ll play with Josh at Cabrillo next year, but the rest, I’ll never play with them again,” Abraham said. “That’s hard to think about.”
“These guys are all my best friends, Lane said. “I get to play next year with my best friend, but this year is something I’ll remember forever.”
And for the first year varsity coach, he knows how much those seniors did for him this season.
“It’s great bunch of seniors,” Avecilla said. “We’re gonna miss their talents, but mostly their leadership. I’ve only been coaching baseball for two years and varsity for one, they helped guide me along.”