Less than 24 hours after a riveting one-run win over Willow Glen in 11 innings, the Live Oak baseball team wasn’t in the mood to go extra innings again. So on Friday, they made sure to end things early. Displaying superiority in every phase of the game, the Acorns defeated crosstown rival Sobrato 11-1 in a game that was called after five innings due to the mercy rule.
“The attitude of the team switched during that 11-inning game, and that made the difference today also,” Live Oak coach Matt Brotherton said. “It was a good momentum shift for us. We’d lost two of our previous three and now we’re back on a good little run. Losing two of three was a little hiccup and it righted the ship for us actually. Young kids tend to get a little bit full of themselves (after some success) so it was a good time for those losses to happen now. It’s better to lose in the middle of the season then at the end.”
Acorns senior Drew Becks was masterful, throwing a complete-game, five-hitter, and allowing just one run in the final inning. Becks mixed speeds beautifully and was in control the entire way.
“Drew is a quality arm and understands how to pitch,” Brotherton said. “He’s not a thrower, he’s a pitcher. He’s got a curveball, changeup and little slider and he spots his fastball really well. His changeup is really good, and he gets a lot of swings and misses and draws weak contact with that changeup.”
The Acorns got on the board early, scoring twice in the bottom of the first inning off singles from Justin Kester-Johnson and Dominic Pereira. After going scoreless in the second, Live Oak put up four runs in the third and five more in the fourth en route to the victory. Tyler Klopp highlighted the third when he ripped a two-run double down the left-field line, while Diego Castellanos hit a two-run triple in the fourth that was preceded by Pereira’s two-run single.
It was Castellanos who scored the winning run on Thursday against Willow Glen—a 2-1 win—coming home off Cole Wilson’s hard-shot single up the middle. The victory came two days after the Rams had beaten the Acorns 8-7 in eight innings. Castellanos also drove in the team’s first run against Willow Glen in the rematch.
Against Sobrato, Wilson continued to show his defensive prowess by making a couple of sensational plays at shortstop, none better than when he jumped high to snag a liner off the bat of William Conn in the fourth inning. Later in the inning, Wilson had to be perfect as he charged a slow-rolling grounder and fired off to first base for the third out. It’s plays like that that have the Acorns at 13-2 overall and 8-2 in the Blossom Valley League’s Mount Hamilton Division.
“That (leaping) catch was unbelievable,” Brotherton said. “He’s been spectacular and strong defensively all season.”
Even though the Bulldogs got 10-run ruled, the loss didn’t cost them anything in the standings since this was a non-division game. They’ll still enter next week in first place in the BVAL Santa Teresa Division standings with a 8-2 record. Shane Callison drove in Sobrato’s lone run with a double down the right-field line in the fifth.
Callison and Seth Hernstedt led the team with two hits apiece. Callison also made a terrific defensive play at shortstop when he gloved a fast sinking liner in the second. But that was pretty much the only highlights for the Bulldogs, who have had another strong season but were thoroughly outplayed by Live Oak.
Brotherton was pleased with the fact the dugout was chirping throughout.
“The attitude of the dugout has been inconsistent, so we’re just trying to get positive energy going because it really helps,” he said. “In high school baseball, energy is huge. You don’t see a lot of big leaguers jumping up and down or hooting and hollering, but at this level it really affects the way you play—it really does. So we try to have a lot of loud, positive energy. It doesn’t happen every game, but with Sobrato it’s pretty easy because they want this game as bad as any one. It’s that crosstown rival thing.”
Pereira had a game-high four RBI, Castellanos had three, and Patrick Kissee and Kester-Johnson scored three times each. With catchers Tyler Madden and Tyler Klopp, Brotherton elected to have his catchers call pitches this season. Not many high school coaches would allow that, but then again, there aren’t many teams that have a deep battery like the Acorns do.
In Becks and sophomores Aidan Keenan and Landon Stump along with Madden and Klopp, Live Oak is fortified at the pitcher and catcher positions. Brotherton was going to have Madden call pitches last season only to have the season be shutdown a week and a half in. The two had many conversations, and Madden proved to Brotherton that he had a great understanding of the game and ability to call a game.
“We let our pitchers and catchers call the game because they have a better idea of how to attack opposing hitters and what they’re doing when they’re actually in the game,” Brotherton said. “It’s a step in the right direction for us and a step forward as coaches not calling pitches. Not many high school coaches do this, but we also have really talented sophomore pitchers and a senior who really knows what he’s doing. So it makes it easy. Both of our catchers are really smart behind the plate.”
The Acorns are in the driver’s seat to win their first league championship since the 2017 season. If they clinch the title, there’s a strong likelihood they’ll be placed in the Central Coast Section Playoff Open Division, pitting them against some of the premier teams in the Bay Area.
“We’ll most likely be in the Open Division with the West Catholic teams, and this team wants it,” Brotherton said. “This team wants to play the best and wants to prove they’re the best. They’re going to get what they want I hope.”