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Escalante wins horseshoes tournament while visiting Pahrump

If you’re going to drive eight hours to pitch horseshoes, you might as well win.

Louie Escalante also came to Pahrump from 30 miles north of Reno to visit family, but while he was in town he entered the Pahrump Boo tournament, held each year near Halloween. Escalante lived up to his entering 48.28 ringer percentage by rolling to five consecutive wins to capture the Class A title on Saturday morning at Petrack Park.

Escalante won by huge margins, defeating Dan Dunn 45-15 and 44-14, defeating Dennis Andersen 47-13 and 46-13 and defeating Ray Leavitt 42-10 before tying Leavitt in his final game. Escalante’s 114 ringers for the day were 33 more than Leavitt’s second-best total of 81, and his 249 points dwarfed the second-best total of 166 posted by Dok Hembree, the runner-up in Class B.

Escalante has been pitching competitively for four years.

“I was playing at an old bar, and two guys came and asked me,” he recalled. “I thought we were going to play some more backyard shoes. I didn’t know we were going to play tournaments.

“It’s a fun game. I really enjoy it.”

Despite his statistics, Escalante said he, like most players, can get into a rhythm one minute and feel it disappear the next.

“I played over in Nevada City in California, and I couldn’t buy a ringer,” he said. “I won two out of seven.”

His 5-0-1 record Saturday was the best of the day. Class C champion Joseph Kalache went 5-1, while Dave Barefield edged Hembree in Class B with a 4-1-1 record to Hembree’s 4-2.

Tournament organizer Mike Norton said the day could not have gone any better.

“Twelve players in three divisions, so each person will play the same opponent twice,” he explained. “So they’ll wind up with 240 shoes for the tournament. It worked out really well.

“And no handicaps. If I would have had two groups, I would have had a major handicap, so I broke them up into three groups and that way they get to play more shoes. If you’re coming down from Reno, you might as well get some playing time in. Louie is just on fire today.”

With six pits, Petrack Park works very well with a 12-player field, Norton said. With four players in each of three groups, everyone can play at the same time with no byes.

“It’s a perfect amount of players for our pits,” Norton said. “We’ve got every pit used, and I kind of like the double-round-robin, because if you lose to a guy in the first round, you have more incentive to beat him in the second round.”

The groups are decided by entering ringer percentage, so players with similar statistics compete against each other. Aside from Escalante’s rampage through Class A, the competition featured a large number of tight games because of the competitiveness of the arrangement.

“B and C groups were all very close together,” Norton said. Indeed, the Class B battle between Barefield and Hembree essentially was decided by a point, as Barefield edged Hembree 26-25 on one of their games and won the group by a half-game. In Class C, Mike Nicosia finished two games behind Kalache in second place.

About the only drawback of going with three groups of four instead of two groups of six is the payout. Three winners means three first-place shares, and Norton decided to pay out the top three in each group instead of the more common top two.

“It will be 25 bucks and a patch, and I forgot my patches,” Norton said with a chuckle. “They’re going to have to get one later.”

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