Northwest Cabarrus' Rob Bain is proud of his performance last year, when he claimed South Piedmont Conference Pitcher of the Year honors while helping the Trojans win a share of the conference title.
That's why the senior hopes to pick up right where he left off.
"I don't want to get complacent," he said. "I want to keep working hard. After a season like that people might get lazy, but I don't want to do that."
The 6-foot Bain isn't a power pitcher, instead focusing on his location to beat his opponents. The lefthander's change-up, his main off-speed pitch, and his improving curve ball can give opposing batters problems.
Northwest Cabarrus coach Joe Hubbard said that's what makes Bain, who had an 8-3 record for the Trojans last season, so effective.
"He's sneaky quick. He can get on you because you have to worry about his off-speed pitches, which he's able to spot up so well," said Hubbard. "Rob gets ahead on the count, he works the batters so they will hit the pitches he wants."
But Bain credits his teammates for his success.
"I couldn't do it without a good defense to back me up," said Bain. "I get a lot of groundballs."
The Trojans started 8-8 last year before closing the season by winning 13 of their last 15 games, which was good enough for Northwest to share the regular season SPC title with Mount Pleasant.
Bain admits last year's run was surprising.
"I knew we had a good team going into the season, but I didn't expect the season to go quite that well," the 18-year-old said.
Bain said last year's seniors, including fellow lefty pitching ace Taylor West and Justin Seager, had a lot to do with that turnaround, but without them this year, Bain knows he will have to take on a leadership role.
"We're different than last year's team - we're younger - but if we continue to practice hard, we could be as good as last year, if not better," he said.
Without West, the spotlight will be on Bain on the mound, although he will have help from right-hander Weston Smith, who was 4-1 last year.
"Weston is a great pitcher, too, and I know if we both do our jobs - like me and Taylor did last year - we'll be fine," said Bain.
Bain said his pitch control, especially his ability to keep the ball down to command the strike zone, has improved after playing for Pineville-based travel team On Deck. He said after a rough summer with the team, his fall went smoothly. He hopes to carry that into his final high school season.
Bain said committing to play baseball at Davidson next year has given him a great sense of relief, which he said is paying off on the mound.
"Now that I'm more relaxed, I'm more confident, my mechanics feel the best they've ever felt," said Bain.
His focus is on finishing his Trojan career on a high note.
"It'd be huge to win back-to-back conference championships," he said. "That's our main goal right now."
Mount Pleasant, behind all-conference pitchers Grayson Atwood and Anthony Allende as well as shortstop Brandon Burris, are again the Trojans' top contenders for an SPC title. Pitcher Zach Andrews and Hickory Ridge should also contend for a conference crown.
"Every time in our conference has very good arms, good pitchers," said Hubbard. "But we have as good of a one-two punch as anyone in the league."
Northwest should be within reach of the title, as Bain and Smith will have the help of all-conference shortstop Corey Seager, a junior who already committed to play at South Carolina, as well as from third baseman Tanner Bigham and outfielder William Miller.
"Our team is real tight," said Bain. "If we play well, we should win conference again and go far in the playoffs."
Hubbard said the Trojans, which he describes as highly intelligent, is capable of reaching those goals, but it won't be easy as the team looks for its identity after losing five seniors from last year.
"We're a very talented team, but I think it's going to take a while for us to gel together and to really start playing," said Hubbard.
"That's what you want, though - you really want to play your best baseball down the stretch. I think this team has a lot to offer."