Jared Leroux admitted that midway through his second no-hitter of the season, he couldn’t turn his mind off.
The Okanagan Athletics pitcher said at practice on Tuesday it was tough to ignore what was happening.
“Oh, I’m thinking,” he said with a laugh. “I’m trying not to focus too hard, just go out there and relax and do what I’ve been doing, do what’s working for me already and not change my approach.”
Nobody on the A’s wants anything to change at this point. The 18-year-old Vernon Secondary graduate has thrown two no-hitters in his last three appearances in the B.C. Premier Baseball League.
It’s a remarkable feat for anyone, let alone a BCPBL rookie like Leroux.
“(Coach Evan Bailey) helped me prepare very well for this season,” said Leroux. “It’s a really great organization.”
Leroux played last year for the West Kelowna Diamondbacks in a league one tier below the A’s. He started this season as you might expect a rookie to start, with a shaky no-decision in a 9-7 loss to the Parksville Royals. Since then, though, he’s been lights out with four straight wins, and those two no-hitters.
“It feels real good,” he said of the success. “It helps build confidence, too, going into the next start.”
That next start should be Saturday in North Delta against the Blue Jays.
The A’s, themselves, have won seven of their last 10 games including four straight. They’re the hottest team in the province, and we’re not just talking about the weather.
Bailey said Leroux’s approach to the game, and his control on the mound, have led to his recent success.
“I think his demeanor has helped him a lot,” Bailey said, adding he has a “quiet competitiveness.”
In his most recent outing—a 6-0 win over the Whalley Chiefs—Leroux pitched a complete game seven-inning gem that included eight strikeouts and only two walks.
He threw 92 pitches, 58 of them for strikes.
Leroux was even better in a 7-0 win over Coquitlam Reds on May 18.
He fanned 12 Reds’ hitters and didn’t walk anyone, and 61 of his 93 pitches were for strikes. The only blemish that prevented him from a perfect game against one of the league’s best teams was hitting a batter during the second inning.
Bailey said the six-foot-one right-hander is seldom behind in the count, and his pitch selection makes it easier to escape any jams.
“Honestly, it’s just been a lot of fun to watch him throw,” Bailey said.
Leroux relies on his fastball and curve, with a slider thrown in occasionally.
“If you have control of a curveball that you can throw for a first pitch, if you get ahead with that, then they don’t have any idea of what’s coming at them next,” Leroux said.
All the success has meant scouts are paying more attention.
The Vernon native is expected to decide this week on where he will play baseball in September.
He is leaning toward Cloud County Community College in Concordia, Kansas, alongside teammate Jaden Parsons.
Concordia is a city of about 5,200 people in the northwestern part of the state.
Leroux’s success seems to be mirroring that of his team. The A’s were 10-10 before sweeping four games from Whalley two weeks ago.
They didn’t play last weekend due to the all-star game.
It hasn’t just been ace pitching, either.
Parsons, another Vernon product, is hitting .416 on the season with 16 RBIs and 15 stolen bases in 24 games. His average is third best in the league.
He was equally impressive last season, and his coach says he’s earned all the recognition he can get.
“He’s unbelievable,” Bailey said. “I don’t know that I’ve used that word to describe a player before. … His work ethic is unmatched by anyone else.”
Parsons said the A’s (14-10) are anxious to get back on the field against the Blue Jays (16-13).
Despite the average start to this season, the A’s got a boost from beating up on the league’s worst team in Whalley, Parsons said.
“That’s what we’re supposed to do,” the five-foot-nine, 180-pound infielder said. “The good teams take care of those teams that are in the bottom of the division. … We want to separate ourselves.”