The roll call of pitchers who’ve made names for themselves while at Orange Lutheran High School in the last eight years is long and impressive.
Sharpen your pencils, folks; the Lancers appear ready to add two more to the list.
Luke Mattson and Cole Spear opened their junior seasons last week with impressive victories on the mound, Mattson shutting out J.W. North of Riverside on two hits in his varsity debut and Spear striking out eight and allowing one run in six innings two days later against Chaparral of Temecula.
“It’s kind of the two-headed monster,” Orange Lutheran coach Eric Borba says of this season’s 1-2 punch on the mound.
The Lancers’ pitching staff has become rather adept at putting a scare into opposing batters.
Gerrit Cole starred for Orange Lutheran’s varsity team in 2007 and 2008, was selected in the first round of the Major League draft by the New York Yankees following his senior year, but passed on a potential $4 million signing bonus to play for UCLA. Three years later, he was the No. 1 overall pick by the Pittsburgh Pirates—earning an $8 million signing bonus—and this spring is set to begin his third season in the Major Leagues.
Brandon Maurer also graduated from Orange Lutheran in 2008 but took a far different route to the Major Leagues, signing with the Seattle Mariners out of high school after getting drafted in the 23rd round. He spent five years in the minors before skipping the AAA level and making the Mariners out of spring training in 2013, becoming the first member of the club’s 2008 draft class to make the big leagues.
Andrew Thurman was two years behind Cole and Maurer at Orange Lutheran, but might soon join them in the majors. He was selected by the Houston Astros in the second round of the 2013 MLB draft out of UC Irvine, then was traded to the Atlanta Braves in January. Garrett King was drafted by the New York Mets following his senior season at Orange Lutheran last spring, but the hard-throwing right-hander opted to play collegiate ball for Nebraska, where he made his first start last week.
Borba says Mattson reminds him a lot of King.
“Luke is just a bulldog. He goes right after hitters,” Borba says. “He throws four pitches for strikes and he’s fun to watch.”
Mattson, like Cole, played for the Orange Lutheran junior varsity team as a sophomore. Spear, on the other hand, played for the varsity last season and threw 14 2/3 innings, posting a 1-1 record and 3.34 ERA. He has already committed to play for UCI.
“This is the first year we don’t have those high-profile [pitchers] and it’s actually kind of nice because these guys got to work together as a team.” Borba says. “They don’t look to one guy to carry us. Everybody’s got to hold their end.”
One of the reasons Orange Lutheran is a popular destination for talented pitchers is the fact that the Lancers play their home games at Hart Park in Orange, which has the spacious dimensions more typically seen at college and professional parks.
“Our philosophy is just to go out and pound strikes,” Borba says. “Hitting at this level is very difficult, so if we can stay in the strike zone, especially in this park, you know we can challenge hitters a little bit and get away with it.”