With a little help from Sandy Koufax, pitcher Scott Sellz of Valley Chatsworth is throwing a curveball that is the talk of the American Legion playoffs.
"I don't even know if I would be able to hit it or catch it," Sellz said.
Twice last week, Sellz pitched nine-inning victories, including a 7-4 triumph over Van Nuys Notre Dame on Sunday in the District 20 championship game.
Sellz, a right-hander, is throwing the curveball Koufax taught him when he was 10. Koufax, a family friend, has continued to provide occasional advice through the years.
"If you have a Hall of Famer teaching you, I think you can learn a few things," Sellz said. "I think of it as an advantage."
In describing how he throws the curveball, Sellz said, "I put my middle finger on the seam and right before I release it, I snap down. It moves differently than other people's [curveballs]."
Second baseman Brendan Ryan of Notre Dame said Sellz's curveball frustrates batters.
"It has a late break, and it's a sharp break and looks like a fastball, so it's real hard to adjust," Ryan said.
Sellz is 8-1 for Valley Chatsworth (29-3), which begins the Area 6 playoffs Thursday at 3 p.m. against Pomona at Birmingham High.
Sellz was able to pitch nine innings on only two days' rest, an indication of his arm strength.
He has signed with Cal State Northridge and could be a contributor as a freshman.
The six-team, double-elimination Area 6 playoffs start Thursday at Birmingham and continue Friday, Saturday and Sunday at UCLA's Jackie Robinson Stadium.
Other teams from the region in the tournament are Camarillo (21-7), which plays Damien at 9 a.m. Thursday, and Ojai-Santa Paula (26-5-1), which meets Westside at noon.
Encino Crespi was eliminated from the Legion playoffs by Van Nuys Notre Dame on Sunday, but it didn't detract from a stellar season by third baseman Jonathan Oller.
Oller, a Crespi junior, finished with 53 hits, 52 runs batted in, 11 home runs and a .570 batting average. Celt fans are calling him "a little Dave Kingman."
Burbank Burroughs was eliminated from the District 20 playoffs in the second round after meeting Van Nuys Notre Dame, which lost in the first round.
Van Nuys Notre Dame pounded youthful Burbank Burroughs, 16-0, on Thursday.
"This was the day everybody on our team went on vacation a day early," said Coach Tom Crowther, whose Burbank Burroughs team finished 19-9. "We had a good season, but we just ran out of horses."
Singles by Jon McKenzie and Tim Murphy were the only hits by Burbank Burroughs, which started six sophomores.
The District 16 17-and-under division playoffs begin today with the first games of two best-of-three series.
Westlake plays at Camarillo and Royal-Simi plays at Thousand Oaks at 5 p.m. today and Thursday, with third games Friday, if necessary.
The series winners will play for the district championship at noon Sunday at Thousand Oaks. Both finalists advance to the Area 6 playoffs beginning next Wednesday at Clover Field at La Palma Park in Anaheim.
Staff writers Lauren Peterson and Eric Sondheimer contributed to this notebook.
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Area 6 Legion Playoffs (Double Elimination)
Thursday at Birmingham High
* Camarillo vs. Damien, 9 a.m.
* Ojai-Santa Paula vs. Westside, noon
* Valley Chatsworth vs. Pomona, 3 p.m.
Friday-Sunday at Jackie Robinson Stadium, UCLA
* Games at 10 a.m., 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Championship game Sunday at noon, with second game to follow, if necessary.