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Sports

Oaks' future in doubt, but team makes most of present


While this summer marks Steve Espinoza’s final season running the Palo Alto Oaks, he hopes it’s not the semipro baseball team’s last year as well.

The Los Altos High graduate desperately wants the Oaks, founded in 1950, to continue without him – if that’s possible.

“After 11 years of doing it, it has become so hard, given field time, funds, etc.,” said Espinoza, general manager of the team he once coached and played for. “I hope someone will be willing to take the team over, but to date, nobody has stepped up. It has been hard over the years knowing that if I stepped away, the team may fold after 65 years. That has weighed heavily on me.”

If this is indeed the Oaks’ last year, Mountain View resident Espinoza would like it to be a successful one. So far, it has.

Palo Alto improved to 8-0 in the Western Baseball Association with Sunday’s doubleheader sweep of the visiting Oakland Expos. The Oaks prevailed 12-2 and 13-6 at Baylands Athletic Center.

Veteran Ricky Navarro picked up the win in Sunday’s opener, allowing just one earned run over a game shortened to seven innings on the 10-run mercy rule.

Catcher Gary Ellis (Menlo College) contributed three hits and two RBIs for the Oaks. Shortstop Sam Wilkins (San Francisco State) added three hits.

Dominic Hernandez, another Oaks vet, started the second game and earned the win for his three innings of work. He surrendered only one hit but three runs and was replaced by Will Nahmens in the fourth. He allowed three runs before giving way to Jacob Naval, who pitched the final two frames without giving up a hit or run.

Espinoza said “the Oaks allowed a few more runs than they normally do,” but they scored plenty, too.

Lead-off hitter Kevin Cali (West Valley College) and outfielder Casey Thompson (Mission) combined for seven hits and six RBIs against an Oakland team the Oaks swept for a second time this year. Thompson – who Espinoza said “has been spraying the ball all over” – blasted a three-run homer in the fifth.

Thompson, Cali and Nahmens – along with fellow newcomers Graham Fisher (a pitcher who graduated from Gunn High), Matt Kuhl, Sean Allen and Chase Spivey – have “exceeded my initial expectations,” Espinoza said. “Mix that with the veterans and we have a very good team.”

The Oaks, managed by Gunn grad Greg Matson, are scheduled to host another doubleheader 11:30 a.m. Sunday at Baylands; opponent to be announced.

For more information on the Oaks, visit paoaks.com.

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