The Palo Alto Oaks enjoyed their finest semipro baseball season in their 60-year history in 2010, winning more games (23) and advancing further (to the World Series) than ever before.
Palo Alto also won the American Amateur Baseball Congress (AABC) Northern California State and AABC Western States Regional titles.
Now, the Oaks are poised to do it again.
Palo Alto improved to 12-0 and clinched the No. 1 seed for the upcoming NorCal state playoffs following a sweep of the El Cerrito A's on Sunday at Baylands Athletic Center. The Oaks produced 12-0 and 6-1 victories while remaining unbeaten with one week of the regular season remaining.
The Oaks will wrap things up on Sunday before hosing the AABC NorCal State championship tournament at Baylands beginning Friday, July 22. Palo Alto will have to win that in order to advance to the Western States Regional tourney the following weekend in Southern California.
The reward for winning the West Region title will be a return trip to the World Series in Houston, Texas. The Oaks came within a game of reaching the finals last season, going 2-2 and finishing the season 23-3-1.
Veteran pitchers Matt Campbell and Brant Norlander were superb, as usual, on Sunday.
Norlander started Game 1 of the Western Baseball Association (Stan Musial Division) doubleheader and gave up just one hit while striking out 10. Graham Rodriguez pitched the last inning and struck out all three hitters he faced.
The Oaks got busy in the first inning when they rapped out five hits and two walks to put up a 5-0 lead. Nick Borg had the big hit, knocking in two with a single.
In the second inning, Palo Alto grad Evan Warner led off by being hit by a pitch. A ground out put him on second. Warner then stole third. Stanford's Tyler Gaffney also was hit by a pitch to put runners on the corners with one out. Warner stole home on a delay steal, which stunned the visiting team. Bryan Beres singled and Borg walked to load the bases. Anthony Bona launched a bases-clearing double to deep right center. Gunn grad Greg Matson then walked and, after a groundout, Will Klein was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Two walks plated two more runs and the route was on.
In the second game, Campbell took the mound and was in complete control until the fifth. That's when the A's led off with a double and, after a groundout to first, plated the runner with a single. That was the only run the visiting A's would score against the Oaks.
Palo Alto scored all it would need in the top of the first. Warner led things off with a single. Alex Sortwell walked to put runners on first and second. Gaffney then hit into a double play and the inning looked like it might end without any damage. But, Bona stepped in and delivered a triple over the centerfielders' head to plate Warner. Vince Gutierrez then singled in Bona for a 2-0 lead.
The Oaks struck again in the third when Sortwell led off with a walk, stole second and advanced to third on a groundout. Bona then delivered again with a single to plate Sortwell.
The Oaks concluded their scoring in the sixth when Tyler Finley, who is just back from injury, singled to lead things off. Jeff Ramirez then hit a fly into shallow right-center that dropped for a hit. Klein, running for Finley, was forced out at second. Sam Wilkens singled and Brian Maihack walked to load the bases. Josh Brown was then hit by a pitch to score one run. A couple of wild pitches allowed two more runners to score and put the game out of reach. Matson pitched the final two innings gave up no runs and struck out three.
Western Baseball Association
Stan Musial Division
At Baylands Athletic Center
El Cerrito A's 000 000 -- 0 1 0
Palo Alto Oaks 560 001 -- 12 13 0
WP -- Brand Norlander (10 strikeouts). LP -- Andrew Lewis.
2B -- Bona (PA), Stiles (PA).
Palo Alto Oaks 201 003 0 -- 6 8 1
El Cerrito A's 000 010 0 -- 1 4 1
WP -- Matt Campbell. LP -- Randy Eleck.
3B -- Bona, Sortwell (PA). 2B -- Graham (EC).
Records: Palo Alto Oaks 12-0
The Menlo Park Legends won three of four games and wound up second after dropping a a 6-2 decision top to the Santa Barbara Foresters in the championship of the Rawlings Cup Tournament in San Luis Obispo during the weekend.
The Foresters came into the tournament ranked No. 4 in the nation.
Grant Nelson homered and Pierson Jeremiah added a double and triple for Menlo Park, which was unable to hold an early lead in the finale.
En route to the championship game, the Legends were able to defeat the San Luis Obispo Blues, 4-3, after getting swept by them last week.
In Game 2, the Legends' offense and defense were on the ball during a 16-3 romp over the Orange County Pioneers. Corey Zirbes got the start for the Legends and earned the win by striking out six and allowing three runs through seven innings. Palo Alto High grad Tyger Pederson and Joe Goldenberg combined for seven of the team's 21 hits with Michael Hoo adding three more. Goldenberg went 4-for-6 with three doubles.
In Game 3, the Legends kept their bats hot and defeated the San Francisco Seals, 12-2. Menlo Park manager David Klein led the attack by going 3-for-4 and scoring three runs. Nelson added a three-run homer and Hoo slammed a two-run homer.