Jon Bauer had the right stuff this ball season.
The Maple Ridge resident, who celebrated his 18th birthday Aug. 12, was named the B.C. Premier Baseball League's top pitcher after putting up some splendid numbers as a member of the Langley Blaze.
During the regular season, Bauer finished with an 11-1 record and a tidy ERA (earned run average) of .82.
Among those 11 victories was one no-hitter against the White Rock Tritons, and four completegame shutouts.
Bauer was a big reason why the Blaze finished with a 39-9 record and finished on top of the BCPBL regular season standings for the fourth time in the past five years.
Bauer worked hard during the off-season, and believes his efforts paid dividends.
"We had our winter program where we went down to the track and ran stairs all the time," the Samuel Robertson Technical Secondary grad said. "I put in the work this year. It was nice to see good results."
The four-seam fastball was Bauer's bread-and-butter pitch this year. The velocity of the pitch usually topped out at 86 mph, Bauer remarked.
"It was definitely the pitch I used to my advantage," he said.
"Being able to spot it up really helped me."
His "out" or secondary pitch was usually his curve ball.
"I used it on the outside part of the plate," he said.
Bauer also has an off-speed pitch that he's tried to add to his arsenal.
"As a pitcher you always want to try to get better," he said.
"Around the end of the year I really tried to use my change-up. My coach Doug [Mathieson], he really emphasized that I try to work on it."
On the heels of another dominating regular season, the Blaze's hopes for a playoff title came to an abrupt end.
The North Shore Twins shocked the defending BCPBL provincial champion Blaze by eliminating the Langley squad in two games during the league's Final 8 playoffs.
The Blaze's offence never got going. Langley lost to the Twins by scores of 3-0 and 2-0.
The wins catapulted the Twins into the league's Final 4.
The losses ended the Blaze's season.
The Twins went on to lose to the Okanagan Athletics by a 9-7 score in the 2012 BCPBL Final 4 provincial championship final Aug. 5.
Bauer is still trying to wrap his head around the Blaze's early post-season exit.
"I don't know," he said. "I pitched the second game [the 2-0 loss]. I didn't pitch bad but sometimes those things happen."
Moving forward, Bauer heads to Texas this Saturday, where he will attend El Paso Community College of the National Junior College Athletic Association.
Bauer is on a full-ride scholarship after signing a letter of intent with El Paso on May 25.
"I always want to get better, so that means long hours in the gym when I get to Texas, and I have to keep my cardio up because I'm not the smallest guy," he said. "It's always about getting better and making a better pitch, and making a better out."
As a young ball player in the Ridge Meadows Royals program, Bauer started out at third base before gradually shifting to the pitching position.
"I just got a chance one day [to pitch] and I liked it, and I stayed at that," Bauer said.
One of the reasons Bauer has found his niche on the pitching hill is his ability to stay focused, one pitch at a time.
"When I go on the mound, I'm really just thinking about making the next pitch," Bauer said. "You never think about, 'Oh, the guy on deck, he can hit a home run.' You just face every obstacle as it comes. When I get up there, that's what I try to do, one pitch at a time."
While the Blaze helped open the window of opportunity to El Paso, he was introduced to Langley's premier team by a good friend, Tyler Barlow.
"His parents kind of convinced me to come out here [to Langley]," Bauer said. "I came out here for fall ball and Doug liked me, and I liked Doug [Mathieson], so I came out here and it was a great chance."
Just beyond the outfield fence at the Blaze's home field at McLeod Athletic Park is a "wall of fame" displaying the names of Blaze grads who have been drafted by MLB teams.
One of those names jumps off the signboard: Toronto Blue Jays' third baseman Brett Lawrie.
Lawrie, from Langley, graduated from the Blaze in 2008, the same year he was drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers in the first round of the MLB draft.
Bauer would love nothing better than to follow Lawrie to "The Show."
"He's my idol," Bauer said, regarding Lawrie. "He grew up here and played on the same team as me. It's definitely something I strive towards - it's definitely motivation."