Live Oak High senior aces Landon Stump and Aidan Keenan have been lights-out this season, combining to go 8-1 with 146 strikeouts over 95 innings pitched. Both have signed with Pac-12 schools. Photo by Jonathan Natividad.

Childhood friends and Division I-signees to Pac-12 schools, Aidan Keenan and Landon Stump aim to end their remarkable prep careers with a bang: by leading the Live Oak High baseball team to a win over West Catholic Athletic League power Mitty in the Central Coast Section Division I playoff quarterfinals on May 20.

It’ll be a tall order given the No. 2 seed Monarchs are, well, a private school power, and WCAL schools tend to dominate the baseball, football and basketball landscape. However, the pitching duo of Keenan and Stump are as good as any in the section.

If they’re on like Stump was last year against then-WCAL champion St. Francis in the CCS D-I quarterfinals—he was carrying a no-hitter with the Acorns up 4-0 but had to be lifted due to the pitch count rule after which the Lancers rallied for the victory—they can beat anybody, including the consensus No. 1 team in the section this year, Valley Christian. 

“I want to go D-I and compete with the best of the best,” Keenan said a day before the regular-season finale May 11, a 10-2 win over Leigh. “I know quite a few [of the top players from the WCAL schools]. I’m buddies with a lot of them, but I want to complete the underdog story.”

And that means a public school like Live Oak knocking off one or more WCAL schools in the postseason. The No. 7 seed Acorns (17-9) play at Mitty at 11am on May 20. Whatever happens, one thing is for certain: It’s going to be a very long time before a team in the South Valley/San Benito County area has a duo like Keenan and Stump, who have been flat-out dominant their senior seasons. 

Keenan, a Stanford-signee, and Stump, a UCLA-signee, have been nothing short of spectacular. Keenan is 6-1 with a 0.77 ERA, with 73 strikeouts over 45 ⅓ innings. Stump is 2-0 with a 1.26 ERA, with 73 strikeouts over 50 innings. 

The two spearheaded Live Oak’s incredible run to a third consecutive Blossom Valley Athletic League Mount Hamilton Division championship this year. Live Oak was 2-4 and in seventh place out of 10 teams through the first six games of the league season. 

A title—and the three-peat—seemed a distant reality. Somehow, someway, the Acorns came all the way back to earn a share of the title after they swept a two-game set from Leigh in the final week of the regular-season. 

Live Oak, Leigh and Branham finished in a three-way tie for the championship, all with 12-6 records in the ultra-competitive Mount Hamilton. The fact the Acorns vaulted four teams to earn a share of the title is a testament to their determination and talent.

In the first of two games with Leigh, a 8-3 victory, Stump earned the win on the mound with six solid innings. Keenan started the second contest and allowed just one earned run while striking out six in five innings. In the league-finale, Stump had a huge day at the plate, hitting a three-run home run as part of Live Oak’s four-run first inning. 

He also had a double and a single, and finished with five RBIs. Ethan Lopez went 2-for-4 with a bases-clearing double in the fourth inning. Keenan helped his own cause at the plate, going 2-for-3, including a run-scoring single. 

The 2-4 league start was largely a result of the team’s lack of hitting. However, players like St. Mary’s College-signee Diego Castellanos, Dominic Pereira and Lopez helped the offense get going. Perhaps not surprisingly, Keenan and Stump also were a big threat with the bat in 2023. 

They ranked among the top three on the team in several key offensive categories, including RBI and slugging percentage, where Stump and Keenan both were second and third, respectively. When they weren’t pitching, Keenan and Stump played the infield, Keenan at second base and shortstop and Stump at first base. 

Keenan hadn’t hit since his freshman year so he exceeded his own expectations for the numbers he put up offensively.

“It ‘s just as much a shock to me as anyone else,” he said. “I hit freshman year, but I wasn’t as big as I am now. I could put it in play but couldn’t hit it as far.”

The key for both players being absolutely lights-out on the mound this season is their improved command in their pitching repertoire. Whereas in the past they could throw one pitch on any count, now they have two to three pitches they can get over for a strike with confidence. 

“Definitely, the key to my success has been being able to throw three pitches, because in the past I haven’t thrown a change-up at all,” Stump said. “In the off-season I also worked on my fastball location, and now I’m able to go inside-outside. This year I’ve gotten better so when people are normally getting hits, they’re not very hard.”

The two have driven each other to improve by working out together and watching each other go about their craft. They both top out in the mid 90 mph range but it’s their secondary pitches and command that have taken their performances to the next level.  

Stump said he admires Keenan’s “wipeout slider,” where Keenan can get a strikeout when the moment calls for it. 

“I’m pretty good at getting two strikes, but I don’t have a wipeout pitch,” Stump said. “When I get two strikes I’m getting a lot of people hitting weak groundouts. But he puts people away with his slider which has a lot of movement. I’m trying to figure out where he starts his slider so I can capitalize on strikeouts because in some situations you’re going to need strikeouts.” 

Said Keenan: “He does stuff I can’t do and I do stuff he can’t do, so we still have a lot to learn from each other.”

Stump said his best start of the season came in the team’s 1-0, nine-inning loss to Willow Glen on May 3, when he allowed just one hit and struck out 10 over eight shutout innings. Keenan felt plenty of pride when he allowed just one hit and struck out nine over five shutout innings in a 5-2 win over Sobrato. 

“I liked that outing because Sobrato is a crosstown rival and I was just mowing them down, strikeout after strikeout,” Keenan said. “It just meant more because it’s a crosstown rival.”

It’s likely Keenan and Stump could be starting opposite each other next year when Stanford and UCLA match up in Pac-12 play. They said they’re looking forward to that day but for now they’re focused on leading Live Oak to a CCS championship in a field loaded with the vaunted WCAL teams. 

“Whoever we play, we want to upset them,” Stump said. 

A day before the final league game against Leigh, Keenan was salivating at the prospect of being on the bump and pitching the Acorns to another league championship. Then he delivered.

“There’s not a more amazing feeling than having our whole season basically in my hands and I’m in control,” Keenan said. “All I can say is I’m ready and as a team coming back to win a championship is really an awesome thing.”

Landon Stump and Aidan Keenan have been dominant in leading the Acorns to a CCS D-I game. Photo by J. Natividad.
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Emanuel Lee primarily covers sports for Weeklys/NewSVMedia's Los Gatan publication. Twenty years of journalism experience and recipient of several writing awards from the California News Publishers Association. Emanuel has run eight marathons with a PR of 3:13.40, counts himself as a true disciple of Jesus Christ and loves spending time with his wife and their two lovely daughters, Evangeline and Eliza.


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