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Bailey Finds Secret of His Success : Rancho Santiago Pitcher Has the Answer: It’s Location

Times Staff Writer

Like any pitcher, Jack Bailey of Rancho Santiago College knows the key to successful pitching is location.

Pitchers are taught from the start to try and keep the ball close to the knees and away from the center of the plate. But for the first time in his career, Bailey is taking advantage of spotting the ball.

In high school, he got by with a better-than-average fastball, and last season at Rancho Santiago College, he was complemented by strong support from his teammates. Last season, he had a 5.82 earned-run average, but the Dons averaged 10.8 runs a game. So despite being hit hard at times (he gave up 109 hits in 85 1/3 innings), Bailey was still 7-3.

This season, Rancho Santiago is averaging only seven runs a game, but Bailey is off to a 7-1 start with a 2.39 earned-run average. The Dons are 18-10 overall and lead the Orange Empire Conference with an 8-3 record. Bailey is 4-1 with a save in conference play. His only loss came last Thursday, 4-3, to Riverside.

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Bailey, Coach Don Sneddon and catcher Joey Townsend agree that the pitcher owes his outstanding start to improved control.

“When I was in high school, I had the fastball to get by most everybody,” Bailey said. “I didn’t have to worry much about hitting my spots. On this level, the six, seven, eight and nine hitters can all hit the ball well, also. You have to throw to spots.”

Bailey also has improved on his other numbers, including the one that troubled him most last season--home runs. Bailey allowed 11.

This season, he has allowed only three in 81 1/3 innings. Bailey has allowed 67 hits and is second in the conference with 66 strikeouts.

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“Last season when he made a mistake, it always seemed to be hit well,” Sneddon said. “This season, teams don’t seem to be able to get that big inning going against him. Now, he keeps his composure and doesn’t lose faith in his ability to get out of it.”

Along with improved location, Bailey, who is 5-foot-11 and 165 pounds, has started to throw his changeup more. He also throws a slider and curveball, and his fastball is normally clocked in the upper 80s.

He worked on his changeup last summer while playing with the San Bernardino Indians, a traveling all-star team made up of college-age players.

“I don’t know if his stuff is that much better, but it sure seems like it from how well he’s doing,” Townsend said.

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Bailey is being sought by several colleges, including Cal State Fullerton, Cal State Long Beach, Miami and San Jose State. There is also the professional draft in June, but Bailey said he will wait and make his decision when the time comes.

But coming out of high school, the decision of which college to attend wasn’t in Bailey’s hands.

He played on the varsity team as a sophomore at Westminster High School. His family then moved to Mission Viejo, where he played at Mission Viejo High School for two seasons. Bailey was 9-4 as a junior and 7-3 as a senior. He also played right field and was the designated hitter when he didn’t pitch.

Although he didn’t have a low grade-point average, he didn’t take all the core classes he needed to be accepted into a four-year college.

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“I just looked for the easy way at times back then,” Bailey said. “In fact, UCLA was ready to offer me a scholarship until they found out I couldn’t get in. It was kind of good in a way. I didn’t think I was mature enough to go away to school.”

Now, he’s in better control of the situation.


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