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The Preps : Boys’ Athlete of the Week : Kennedy’s No. 4 Pitcher Makes an Impression

Times Staff Writer

Robert Espinoza, a senior pitcher at Kennedy High School, has a problem.

It has nothing to do with his curveball or fastball. Those were in fine working order Saturday night. Ask any batter in the San Francisco Riordan lineup--the ones who didn’t get any hits. No, Espinoza’s pitching is all right. His timing is just bad.

Espinoza’s problem is being in the right place at the wrong time.

“I just don’t know how many starts I can give Robert,” Kennedy Coach Chris Pascal said. “It’s funny, but right now he’s my No. 4 pitcher.”

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The No. 4 pitcher on the high school level is not exactly an enviable position. But, a few more outings such as the one against Riordan and Espinoza may move up on Pascal’s list.

Espinoza, The Times’ athlete of the week, struck out four and walked only one as the Fighting Irish defeated Riordan, 2-0, in the first round of the Anaheim tournament.

Despite the no-hitter, Espinoza might be looking at a season of relief work.

Kennedy is deep in pitching. Senior Greg Hansell has been a starter on the varsity since he was a freshman. Senior Pete Montera has started since he was a junior. Add senior Scott Walker, a reliever last season, and the bullpen during practice gets a little crowded.

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“It sounds pretty bad, but the guy throws a ‘no-no’ and I can’t guarantee him another start,” Pascal said. “Once Easter week is over, it’s probably going to be Hansell and Montera.”

But, Espinoza knew the risks when he signed up.

“All I want is for the team to win,” Espinoza said. “I’ll do anything to get us to the playoffs. Right now, that looks like relief pitching.”

Espinoza has a good bit of experience himself. At Aquinas High, he was a member of the varsity as a freshman and a starting pitcher as a sophomore.

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After moving to Anaheim last March, Espinoza approached Pascal about playing. However, because of the transfer, he had to sit out a year.

“I really didn’t know how good he was because I’d never really seen him pitch,” Pascal said. “I saw him throw a few times in the bullpen this year and he looked fine. But you can’t really tell by that.”

The year layoff did affect Espinoza’s pitching. In his first game against Servite, he lasted only 2 1/3 innings and walked eight batters.

“But he also struck out four, so you could see the potential,” Pascal said.

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But potential might not be enough to get Espinoza some starts.

A few no-hitters on the other hand . . .

TOP PERFORMERS

Brett Grebe of Westminster drove in five runs in a 15-0 victory over Woodbridge in the first round of the Anaheim tournament Saturday. Grebe also went the distance as Westminster defeated Lakewood, 5-4, Monday in a nonleague game.

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Phil Nevin of El Dorado hit two home runs in a 6-5 victory over Ocean View Monday. He also singled home the winning run in the ninth inning of a 5-4 victory over Irvine Saturday in the first round of the Anaheim tournament.

Chris Stauritch of El Toro went seven for 10 as the Chargers swept a doubleheader from Marina, 17-13, 5-1, on Wednesday. Stauritch had two triples and a double.

Rick Swanwick of Trabuco Hills had 33 points and 16 rebounds in Saturday’s State Division III boys’ championship game, which was won by Central Valley, 62-61.

Danny Yu of Valencia won six sets in two Orange League tennis victories for the Tigers. Yu lost only two games.

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Robert Espinoza

Kennedy High School

Position: Pitcher

Height, Weight, Class: 5-11, 210, Senior

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Last Week: Espinoza threw a no-hitter against San Francisco Riordan Saturday in the first round of the Anaheim tournament. Espinoza struck out four and walked only one as the Fighting Irish won, 2-0.

Season: Espinoza is 1-1 with a 5.06 earned-run average.


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