MOVING ON UP Aptos High seniors (from left to right) Luke Keaschall, Brynn Mitchell and Jack Bollinger have verbally committed to colleges to play their respective sport. They join a group of other Aptos student athletes who plan to compete at the collegiate level. (Juan Reyes — The Pajaronian)

The list of Aptos High student athletes who will continue their athletic and academic careers continues to grow.

Aptos seniors Luke Keaschall and Jack Bollinger joined a group of students who have verbally committed to colleges to play sports at the next level. 

Keaschall recently announced he verbally committed to play baseball at the University of San Francisco, while Bollinger verbally committed to play baseball at Sacramento State. Both are NCAA Division I programs.

“I’m really excited and feel really honored,” Keaschall said. “The (USF) coaching staff is really good and they have a great program as it is right now. Just to be a part of something so big, even beyond baseball, is just unreal.”

Bollinger said he’s excited to be part of Sacramento State’s program because it competes at the D-I level. He also added that the coaching staff was genuinely nice to him since the time he was being scouted.

“I knew that it was a big deal for me because it’s an important place that I wanted to go and that’s where I wanted to go in the first place,” Bollinger said.

Other Aptos student athletes who verbally committed to colleges include: seniors Natalia Ackerman to Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo (basketball), Gabby Giuffre to the University of San Diego (basketball), Shea Garcia to Portland State (softball) and Brynn Mitchell, who also recently announced she’s going to St. Mary’s to play soccer.

“I wasn’t really expecting to get an offer from (St. Mary’s), so I was blindsided and I was like, ‘Whoa, this is a pretty crazy offer,’” Mitchell said.

Mitchell received a four-year full ride scholarship that includes room and board. She had a couple of other offers on the table but nothing came close to what St. Mary’s was offering.

“I just didn’t really know what to think,” Mitchell said. “I didn’t know if it was actually true… I couldn’t really imagine that happening to me, so it was pretty cool.” 

Mitchell’s original plan was to try to attend a school with the big name. But after looking into St. Mary’s, she said she couldn’t pass up a good education on a beautiful campus surrounded by good people.  

“I’m also going to have the ability to be close to home if I need it but also kind of have that separation and independence that I need,” she said.

Aptos High senior Natalia Ackerman verbally committed to play basketball at Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo. (The Pajaronian file)

In 2018, Aptos alumna Jillian Rodriguez committed to Long Beach State and Cameron Dueck committed to Pepperdine.

Aptos alumna Jenna Belton signed with the University of Southern California in 2014. Fellow Aptos alumna Madison Dueck — Cameron’s cousin — signed with Cal Berkeley shortly after.

Keaschall’s scholarship is worth four years and it’s a mixture of athletic and academic. He’s not exactly sure how much the entire scholarship is worth but it’ll make it affordable for him to attend school. 

Keaschall said he was talking to multiple schools but nobody fully offered him a deal like the Dons. Plus, he mentioned there was an instant connection with the coaching staff when they first met.

“I was really connected with the coaching staff and I loved the program. I love where it’s heading,” Keaschall said.

Keaschall said the coaching staff reached out to him before the Perfect Game World Series in Arizona. He received an e-mail from Dons assistant coach Troy Nakamura as soon as the airplane touched down in the Grand Canyon State.

“I was waiting for the e-mail to load for about 15 minutes, waiting for a response and it popped up,” Keaschall said. “I was like, ‘Wow, that’s awesome.’ I was just super pumped and I called (Nakamura) as soon as I got service, literally walking in the airport escalator.”

Keaschall admitted he didn’t accept the offer right away and still wanted to weigh his other options but he said the selling point for him was the coaching staff.

“These coaches really want me and I really want to go to a program that really wants me and going to put everything on the line for me… that was a big deal to me,” Keaschall said. 

Monte Vista Christian senior Aidan Lee will be joining Keaschall at USF. Lee announced on his Twitter account on Monday he verbally committed to the school. 

“I would like to thank my parents, coaches, and teammates for everything. I can’t wait to be apart of the USF family. Go Dons!” Lee wrote in his post. 

Bollinger will be a walk-on in his freshman year but said there’s the possibility of earning some scholarship money in his sophomore year and beyond.

Aptos baseball coach Jason Biancardi said both Bollinger and Keaschall are pair of hardnose players who live and die for the sport of baseball.

“To see it pay off is exciting and pretty cool,” Biancardi said. 

Biancardi said players on the Aptos baseball team don’t get nearly as many looks as the private schools over the hill such as Valley Christian and Bellarmine. 

However, he said having this year’s team captains get recognized and earning a D-I scholarship will be a motivator for the whole program.

“To have two kids in the same class, both with D-I scholarships, it definitely sends a message to the rest of the program that if you work hard and you put a lot of effort into baseball, it can pay off,” Biancardi said. 

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A Watsonville native who has a passion for local sports and loves his community. A Watsonville High, Cabrillo College, San Jose State University and UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism alumnus, he primarily covers high school athletics, Cabrillo College athletics, various youth sports in the Pajaro Valley and the Santa Cruz Warriors. Juan is also a video game enthusiast, part-time chef (at home), explorer and a sports junkie. Coaches and athletic directors are encouraged to report scores HERE.


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