Oaks win opener behind Campbell's 3-hit pitching gem
Palo Alto looks to continue its amazing season
Palo Alto Oaks manager Steve Espinosa kept asking his pitching ace, Matt Campbell, how he was feeling. Espinoza kept getting the same answer.
"It became apparent it wasn't going to be easy to get him out of the game," Espinosa said in a telephone interview Thursday morning from Houston.
Campbell never did come out of the game and his teammates rewarded him for a sensational effort.
Palo Alto High grad Evan Warner, who entered the game as a pinch runner in the eighth inning, drove in the game's only run on a fielder's choice in the top of the ninth inning as the Palo Alto Oaks opened the Stan Musial World Series with a 1-0 victory over the host team Northwest Wildcats Wednesday at Baseball USA in Houston.
"To win the way we did was huge for us," said Espinosa of his team's first trip ever to the eight-team World Series. "We're seeing the best of the best in the Stan Musial division."
Campbell weaved in and out of trouble all night in tossing a three-hitter. He struck out seven and walked five. Campbell threw 130 pitches in throwing the complete game.
"Matt has always given us flexibility," Espinosa said. "His velocity seemed to be the best it's been all year. He had all three pitchers working, which allowed him the chance to pitch out of jams."
Wildcats' starter Sonny Garcia pitched 8 1/3 innings and deserved a better fate.
"He was exceptional," Espinosa said of Garcia, who spent six years in the minor leagues. "He was the best pitcher we faced by a long shot. He had a slider that was unbelievable. Our hitters were fooled by it."
Mike Reiling had two hits, including a double, for the Oaks. Menlo-Atherton High grad Tyler Finley added a double.
Reiling sparked the winning rally, reaching on an infield single to open the final frame. Vince Guitierrez beat out a bunt, pushing it between the pitcher and first baseman to put runners on first and second with no outs. Reiling was forced at third but Nick Schulz reached base on a throwing error by the third baseman to load the bases.
Up stepped Warner.
"I thought about squeezing with him but I don't like doing it with a left-handed batter," Espinosa said. "He got down 0-2 real quick and I started second guessing myself. But he hit a hard ball to second base, and when the infielder turned to pivot for the double play, he lost his footing."
Greg Matson followed with a line drive off relief pitcher Tyler Duffey, who just finished his freshman year with the Rice baseball team, which was turned into an inning-ending double play.
Campbell made it stand up by striking out the first two hitters in the ninth before walking a batter. Michael Fuda, who hit .346 for the Owls this spring, drove a ball to center that Warner caught to end the drama.
The Oaks (21-1-1) were scheduled to play the New England Braintree White Sox on Thursday night in the second round of the double elimination tournament.
The White Sox have a trio of former minor leaguers on the roster, including Frank Curreri, who reached Triple-A Durham two years ago.