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May 16, 2022

Live Oak baseball team sweeps Sobrato

The Live Oak and Sobrato baseball teams entered their two-game set last week both in desperate need of a sweep to put themselves in prime position for a top-four finish in the Blossom Valley League’s Mount Hamilton Division, which carries automatic berths into the Central Coast Section playoffs. 

The Acorns got what they needed, beating their crosstown rivals 3-0 on April 6 and 8-1 on April 8. That left Live Oak at 10-6 overall and 4-2 in league play, all alone in fourth place. The Bulldogs, meanwhile, dropped to 1-5 in division play, tied for last with Pioneer and Willow Glen. 

Acorns coach Matt Brotherton is cautiously optimistic the team can hit another gear at the halfway point of the league season. 

“I sure hope so,” he said. “We’re still in a good spot. We have Leigh ahead of us and they are undefeated, and Santa Teresa has lost a game, so we’re in a good position. We almost have our destiny in front of us; we need help from somebody to knock off Leigh.”

In the April 8 contest, the Acorns achieved something few other teams have done against Bulldogs starter Ethan Marmie this season—they had success hitting the 6-foot-7 right-hander. Marmie and fellow Sobrato ace Seth Hernstedt have been lights-out for most of the season, but Live Oak got Marmie for seven runs—four earned—over six innings. 

Live Oak counterpart Sullivan Elliott was dominant, allowing just four hits in a complete-game performance. The burly right-hander sports a 1.59 ERA in 26 ⅓ innings this season and will play a huge role as Aidan Keenan, Trevor Kester-Johnson and Tyler Klopp won’t be pitching again this season. 

“All were going to be big parts of our staff and none of them can pitch this year so that’s really going to hurt and take a gut check from the rest of us to be able to compete at the highest level for sure,” Brotherton said. 

Justin Kester-Johnson had a double and triple, Klopp had two hits and two runs scored and Landon Stump finished with three RBI via two fielder’s choices and a single. It was a big week for Stump, who struck out 10 over six shutout innings in leading the team to victory in the first game of the mini series. 

Sobrato could only muster three hits in that one, meaning they were limited to seven hits over the two contests. Bulldogs coach James Pozas said the team isn’t that far away from turning things around, though it has to do it soon. Hernstedt and Marmie have been ultra-reliable, with Hernstedt starting the first game and yielding just one earned run in 5 ⅔ innings. 

“The offense is struggling, and we’re so close,” Pozas said after the April 6 game. “We’re one hit away, two hits away, situational hits away. We’ve got runners all over the bases and it just takes that one hit. I tell them what I’ve told them after the last three games: we’re this close (his thumb and index finger an inch apart). When you get in a funk, sometimes you have to change your mindset. I think maybe right now they don’t believe it because it’s just not happening for them and it’s baseball, but I tell you, look out when they come out of it. The hits are going to come in bunches.”

Game 2 was close until Live Oak’s five-run sixth inning busted things open. Thomas Martinelli and Tyler Pina combined for all four Sobrato hits. In Game 1, Martinelli made a sensational diving catch on a fast-sinking line drive to right-center to prevent a run from scoring. 

One batter earlier, Mathew Primeau made a nice catch off a screaming line drive off the bat of Kester-Johnson. Martinelli, Pina, Hernstedt, Marmie, Primeau and Sonoma State-commit Shane Callison have had solid seasons. 

“Primeau is under the radar but always has a good game,” Pozas said. “He may now wow you, but he always gets on base and does things to help the team.”

Live Oak’s bid to repeat as Mount Hamilton Division champions was dealt a huge blow with Keenan, Klopp and Trevor Kester-Johnson unable to pitch this season. That means more of the load will be placed on Stump, but if anyone is capable of handling it, the UCLA-commit is up to the task. 

Stump’s fastball is in the low to mid 90 mph range, even in the late innings when some guys fade. Brotherton was impressed with Stump’s Game 1 performance. 

“Landon definitely looked good and has been working really hard in his bullpens to shore and tighten some things up, a few things he hasn’t been happy with,” Brotherton said. “So today was a good indication of the work he’s been putting in. There aren’t too many guys that work that hard with his talent.”

Brotherton said Diego Castellanos and catcher Ethan Lopez have been swinging the bat well recently, especially in clutch situations. In Game 1, the Acorns only had four hits but drew six walks to manufacture three runs. It’s that type of gritty performance that could bode well for them as they attempt to make a serious run at the league title, in spite of the pitching losses. 

“This is our team and we’re going to fight and grind until the end,” Brotherton said. “I think we have the right mentality to do so and hopefully it works in our favor. We just need to keep winning league games and we’ll be alright. But easier said than done.”

Seth Hernstedt fields the ball in the Bulldogs’ 8-1 league loss to Live Oak on April 8. Photo by Jonathan Natividad.
Michael Volkman kicks up dirt by sliding home safely in Live Oak’s second game with Sobrato. Photo by Jonathan Natividad.
Landon Stump celebrates with Alexis Perez after the Acorns were triumphant on April 8. Photo by Jonathan Natividad.

Sports editor Emanuel Lee can be reached at [email protected]

Emanuel Lee
Sports Editor of the Gilroy Dispatch, Hollister Free Lance and Morgan Hill Times. PR of 3:13.40 at the 2019 CIM. Hebrews 12:1.

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