Elite pitchers have long been attracted to the Orange Lutheran baseball program.
Every season, the Lancers seem to be stacked with hard-throwing hurlers, many of whom continue to perform at a level well beyond high school.
A big allure is Orange Lutheran’s home field, W.O. Hart Park in Orange, which not only features lights, a large seating area and well-manicured grass, but a center-field fence that’s 392 feet from home plate – just four feet shorter than the center-field fence at Angel Stadium.
That can certainly help a pitcher’s earned-run average.
Still, the Lancers still need to score runs to win. Nearly two-thirds of the way through this season, they are getting some of their best offensive production from one of their most unheralded players.
Nathan Flores was hitting a team-high .444 through April 19 and the senior left fielder delivered a multi-hit game in each of the first four Trinity League contests to help the Lancers start 4-0 and get a head start toward their first league championship since 2012.
“He’s one of those guys who’s kind of been under the radar,” Orange Lutheran coach Eric Borba said of Flores, following a 4-1 win over Servite in the opener of their three-game series. “People should be paying more attention to him, but he’s really taking advantage of good pitches to hit—hitting where he’s at in the lineup—and doing a great job.”
Flores hits fifth in the batting order and, at 5-foot-11, 165 pounds, might seem a welcome sight for opposing pitchers, especially after facing cleanup hitter Zach Busalacchi, who is 6-3 and 225 pounds. Flores usually has a surprise waiting for the opposition, however, and jumping on the first pitch is a strategy that’s worked well for him this season.
“I just kind of decided on my own to start being more aggressive and it also helps because I have a lot of good hitters behind me too,” he said. “They can’t really pitch around me.”
Borba, who has been coaching the Lancers since 2009, said Flores is just as effective deep in counts as well. “He’s very selective on his pitch early in the count, which is evident in the amount of hard-hit balls he has,” Borba said. “When he gets to two strikes, he’s able to fight off pitches and make pitchers make mistakes. He’ll foul balls off the other way until he gets a pitch he can handle, and he does a good job going the other way and using all fields when he gets to two strikes.”
Flores struck out only three times in his first 50 plate appearances this season and drew just three walks, which demonstrates his lofty contact percentage.
The league title in 2012 is the only one the Lancers have won since Borba started managing the Lancers, and finishing second the last three years has only stoked players’ desire. With the pitching depth Orange Lutheran owns again this season and the emergence of players like Flores, the Lancers should be tough to beat.
“We think we’ve got a chance to go out there and win it,” Borba said of a league title. “It’s been a while since we’ve had the Trinity League championship, and definitely a goal of this team, but it’s one day at a time.”