Gorman: Not all right for this lefty
Lefty Louden Conte struck out a pair of left-handed hitters before Nick Damico signaled for right-handed relief.
The California coach called a timeout and brought a mitt out for his trip to the mound.
So Conte could change.
The 6-foot, 180-pound junior then scored another strikeout to complete an incredible feat: Conte pitched with both hands in the fifth and final inning of a 13-1 Section 1-A victory Monday at West Greene.
In his first pitching appearance this season, Conte tossed a three-hitter and struck out seven while pitching 4 1⁄3 innings righty and 2⁄3 lefty.
Call him a switch-pitcher.
“I've been working hard at it. It was fun to finally get out there on the mound,” Conte said. “At first, a lot of people didn't realize that I actually turned around and went lefty.”
Conte's attempt at ambidextrous pitching began four years ago, after he had surgery on his right shoulder. He started by tossing a tennis ball off a wall with his left hand, then used a rubber baseball to play catch with his father, Cal (Pa.) University baseball coach Mike Conte. And he pitched a whiffle ball to his younger brother, Payton.
“I thought it would be really fun to do it with a real baseball,” Conte said.
While his accuracy, arsenal and velocity are better as a righty, Conte can throw a fastball in the low 70s and a slider for strikes as a southpaw.
While throwing lefty in the fifth, Conte allowed singles to his first two batters before striking out the next two batters with two runners on base. After West Greene scored on an error, it prompted Damico to make his mound visit.
“At the time, I had runners on second and third so they were just big outs,” Conte said. “But it was a great feeling to do it left-handed in a game that counts.”
With two pitchers out, Damico had been planning to use Conte this season. He threw lefty in relief in junior varsity games to prepare for his varsity debut.
“It was pretty cool to watch,” Damico said. “It's not like it was a joke. I really believe in that lefty-on-lefty matchup, especially at this level. They're not used to seeing that, so you can expose some weaknesses.”
Conte's pitching, however, creates a conflict for California. He's the starting shortstop, so Damico doesn't want to wear out Conte's arm. Plus, he had to make six defensive switches to replace him.
Second baseman Johnny DeFranco moved to short, third baseman Alex Adams to second, first baseman Nate Luketich to third, right fielder Chris Swartz to first and sophomore Bobby Harris to right field.
“I'm still undecided because it really changes our defense,” Damico said. “We're not ready to pull the trigger yet. We know he needs to pitch, but when he's off shortstop, we have to move our fielders all over the place. We have to change the dynamics.
“The door is open for anything at this point.”
Especially for a pitcher who proved in his debut that he's all right.
Even when he's not.