Los Angeles Times
Left-handers live up to their valuable stature
“Lefties rule this world.” So says left-handed pitcher Brandon Luu of Villa Park High.
“We stick together,” Luu said.
High school coaches are giddy when they discover a left-handed pitcher walking around campus. There’s a reason some parents tie their young son’s right arm behind his back, hoping he’ll learn to be left-handed.
Every team wants and needs left-handed pitchers. They don’t have to throw hard. Sometimes hitters who see left-handers on the mound suddenly can’t hit.
“They’re important because it gives hitters a different look,” Villa Park coach Burt Call said. “The ball comes from a different side and different angle. There’s a bit of unfamiliarity.”
Luu, a UC Irvine commit, has given up only two hits in nine innings this season.
“He competes,” Call said. “His fastball moves quite a bit and he’s not afraid to throw inside. He’s developed a very good slider.”
And, of course, Luu’s personality is that of a free spirit, something lefthanders always seem to have.
“You always say lefties have a bit of goofiness to them,” Call said.
Placentia El Dorado might be ground zero for left-handed pitchers with four contributors this season: Nathan Huy, Garvey Rumary, Austin Kirkwood and Jack Fishel.
The best returning pitcher in the City Section is left-hander Oscar Lopez of Woodland Hills El Camino Real.
He doesn’t throw hard, but his ability to move the ball around the plate and throw a nasty curveball makes him very effective. And if you do reach first base, good luck trying to get to second. He picked off 10 runners last season and has picked off two this season.
The pickoff move from a left-hander can be devastating. While parents scream “Balk!” from the stands, their sons are left flustered on the basepaths, either in a rundown or tagged out.
“He’s got one of the best I’ve seen from a lefty,” Lake Balboa Birmingham coach Matt Mowry said of Lopez.
Said Lopez: “I’ve been developing it since I was in travel ball. It’s been working. I’m sure the word is getting around, especially in our league. I’ve been hearing a lot of complaints from coaches. I’ve been doing something right since I haven’t been called for a balk.”
Mowry is one of those coaches feeling left out. He has no left-handed pitchers in his program.
“It’s a great commodity,” he said. “I go around classrooms seeing who’s writing left-handed to get them to try out for baseball.”
The last time Birmingham had a left-handed pitcher was 2019, and Sebastian Cueva was closing out the game at Dodger Stadium, a 9-5 win for the City championship.
The best left-hander in Southern California could be UCLA commit Ethan Schiefelbein, a junior from Corona who has 10 strikeouts in five scoreless innings.
“The sky is the limit,” Corona coach Andy Wise said.
Schiefelbein has a competitive personality that Wise must consider each time he’s on the mound.
“He challenges me with his thoughts and ideas,” Wise said.
Eight-time City champion El Camino Real also has a sophomore left-hander in Christian Gastelum and has a history of producing great left-handers, from Randy Wolf to Kurt Birkins to Jeremy Polon.
“I think it’s a big advantage in that there’s not many right-handers who are used to left-handers,” Lopez said. “It’s unique seeing a left-hander come out. I don’t throw very hard. Just the fact you don’t see very many lefties has been able to help me. A slider or curveball are very good pitches to use.”
Lopez agrees that lefthanders are in charge of the world.
“It’s fun being a lefty,” he said. “It’s a different pitch arsenal.”