It’s a widely accepted adage that left-handed baseball players carry a distinct advantage. Brian Lardner clearly believes it.
He went to great lengths to ensure his son, Mac Lardner, lived it. So when he was learning to play baseball, Brian Lardner literally tied his son’s right hand behind his back to ensure he only threw with his left on the suggestion of his godfather and current San Francisco Giants broadcaster, Michael Krukow.
Mac Lardner grew to 6-foot-4, developed into a dominant left-handed pitcher at Templeton High School and earned a scholarship to play baseball at Gonzaga University. During his freshman season this spring, he was a major contributor for the ‘Zags, making six starts and posting a 3-1 record to go along with a 3.99 ERA in 13 appearances.
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“I was actually anticipating on coming out of the bullpen. But I had a really good fall and started opening weekend against Duke and kind of never looked back,” Lardner said. “I never gave them a chance to not play me.”
It was during the fall that he added 7 mph to his fastball to put him in the 88 to 89 range. In that first start against Duke — Gonzaga’s third game of the season — he struck out eight batters and gave up one run in a 4-1 win. Lardner adjusted to the speed of the game, the late nights and class load throughout the season to become an important part of the pitching staff, helping Gonzaga win the West Coast Conference regular-season championship.
Now he’s back on the Central Coast, living at home and continuing his solid play with the San Luis Obispo Blues in the California Collegiate League this summer.
“He was literally my first call when I took over for the Blues,” said first-year head coach Dan Marple, a former assistant for the Templeton baseball team. “I wanted to help out the local players. What better than a DI left-handed pitcher from Templeton?”
Lardner showed off his stuff Friday against the Conejo Oaks with a nine-strikeout, four-hit complete-game shutout. The Blues won 3-0, and Lardner lowered his ERA to 0.93 in 19 1/3 innings this summer.
Marple said the focus is for Lardner to focus on throwing more first-pitch strikes, along with better attacking the inside part of the plate — as he did Friday. If he continues to improve, Lardner believes he has a shot to become the ‘Zags Friday-night starter, the marquee spot for any college pitcher.
He said he has pulled extra encouragement from watching former Templeton teammate and Cal Poly pitcher Spencer Howard get drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies last week.
“It couldn’t happen to a better kid,” Lardner said.
Lardner said he admires Howard’s work ethic and wants to work just as hard his sophomore season, because even though he’s been refining his throwing motion since he was a kid there’s still work to do.
Upcoming Blues Schedule
2 p.m. Sunday at Santa Barbara Foresters
6 p.m. Tuesday, vs. Santa Barbara Foresters, Sinsheimer Park
6 p.m. Wednesday vs. Santa Barbara Foresters, Sinsheimer Park
6 p.m. Thursday vs. Long Beach Legends, Sinsheimer Park
6 p.m. Friday vs. Orange Country Riptide, Sinsheimer Park
1 p.m. Saturday vs. Orange Country Riptide, Sinsheimer Park
6 p.m. Saturday vs. So Cal Catch, Sinsheimer Park