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Left-handed pitchers offer gold-like value for high school teams

“Leftists rule this world.”

So says lefthanded pitcher Brandon Luu of Villa Park High.

“We stick together,” said Luu.

High school coaches get giddy when they discover a left-handed pitcher on campus. There’s a reason why 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 batters who see left-handers on the mound suddenly can’t hit.

“They’re important because it gives hitters a different look,” said Villa Park coach Burt Call. “The ball comes from a different side and from a different angle. There is a certain unfamiliarity.”

Left-hander Brandon Luu of Villa Park gave up only two hits in nine innings this season.

(Eric Sondheimer/Los Angeles Times)

Luu, a commit from UC Irvine, 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 in. He has developed a very good slider. “

And, of course, Luu’s personality is that of a free spirit, something left-handers always seem to have.

“You always say left-handers are a little crazy,” Call said.

Left-handed pitchers Nathan Huy, left, and Garvey Rumary

Nathan Huy, left, and Garvey Rumary are two of four left-handed pitchers at El Dorado High.

(Eric Sondheimer/Los Angeles Times)

Placentia El Dorado could well be ground zero for left-handed pitchers with four contributors this season: Nathan Huy, Garvey Rumary, Austin Kirkwood and Jack Fishel.

The top 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 across the plate and throw a nasty curveball makes him very effective. And if you happen to make it to first base, good luck getting to second base. He picked up 10 runners last season and has retired two this season.

A southpaw’s pickoff motion is another “unfair” advantage. It can be devastating. While parents scream “Balk!” from the stands, their sons are embarrassed on the base paths, either in a rundown or tagged out.

“He’s got one of the best I’ve seen from a lefty,” Birmingham coach Matt Mowry said of Lopez.

Lopez said, “I’ve been developing it since I was in the travel ball. It has worked. I’m sure the word is getting around, especially in our league. I hear a lot of complaints from trainers. I’ve done something right since I wasn’t summoned for appearances.”

Mowry is one of those coaches who feels left out. He has no left-handed pitchers in his roster.

“It’s a great commodity,” he said. “I go through classrooms to see who writes left-handed to get them to try baseball.”

Left-hander Oscar Lopez of El Camino Real works from the stretch.

Left-hander Oscar Lopez of El Camino Real has one of the best pickoff moves, with 10 baserunners last season.

(Eric Sondheimer/Los Angeles Times)

The last time Birmingham had a left-handed pitcher was in 2019 and Sebastian Cueva closed 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 struck out 10 in five scoreless innings this season.

“The sky is the limit,” said Corona coach Andy Wise.

Schiefelbein has a competitive personality that Wise has to reckon with every 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 second-year southpaw in Christian Gastelum and has a history of producing great southpaws from Randy Wolf to Kurt Birkins to Jeremy Polon.

“I think it’s a big advantage because there aren’t many right-handers who are used to left-handers,” Lopez said. “It’s unique to see a southpaw come out. I don’t throw very hard. Just the fact that you don’t see many left-handers helped me. A slider or curveball are very good pitches to use.”

Lopez agrees that leftists are in charge of the world.

“It’s fun being left-handed,” he said. “It’s a different pitch arsenal.”