By TREVOR FITZPATRICK
It’s not easy to excel as a pitcher in the National Junior College Athletic Association’s Division I.
Seventy-five of the league’s hitters finished the season with a batting average of .400 or higher, a stat that makes the year Tyler Boudreau (Sylvan Lake, Alta.) had on the mound even more impressive.
Finishing the season with a 12-2 record, Boudreau led the Midland College Chaparrals in wins while posting a 3.97 earned run average (ERA).
“It’s a great achievement and all, but I believe that it wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for my team. I had great defence behind me,” said Boudreau, who has taken the mound for the Sylvan Lake Gulls since their opening season in 2021.
“I wasn’t afraid to let guys hit the ball, I trusted my defence the whole year, and that was amazing.”
Wins weren’t the only category Boudreau led the team in either, he also showed off his ability to pitch deep into games all season. He collected a team-high six complete games, including a no-hitter against Clarendon College.
“People have asked me — even on my own team, looking for tips [on pitching deep into games]. I keep telling them, I’ll take 88 [mph] for strikes instead of having 91 out of the zone,” said Boudreau, who also tossed a no-hitter for the Gulls in 2022.
Boudreau’s success this season didn’t come easy though. He went through a lot of the same struggles many Canadian players do when he first moved to the United States.
During his first season with Midland, he made only four appearances for the team, with a 7.71 ERA. Being so far away from home may have played a role.
“There’s definitely some challenges being away from home … especially being in Texas, 26 hours away from my family,” he said.
His quick and large improvement from his first season to his second can be credited in large part to Vauxhall Academy and coach Les McTavish. Spending his high school years at a high-performance school gave Boudreau experience living in a dorm and being a student-athlete.
“Vauxhall and Midland are pretty much the same, both high-end programs that demand a lot of academic success,” said Boudreau.
“Vauxhall made it as easy as possible. Living in the dorms, being with the team every single day, working with the team, and doing everything together prepared me for college.”
Another area that has helped Boudreau adjust to college baseball is his pre-game routine, which helps him focus better on the mound.
“I like to have my own mental time before the game. I like to have about an hour and a half, to go into a bit of a silent mode,” said Boudreau. “I believe it’s helped me with my success.”
His silent time is certainly a big change from his old superstition he had in high school.
“There’s one thing I used to do a lot before and I have veered away from a little bit,” he recalled.
“I used to eat a Mars bar before every game. Now, I realize that having a superstition isn’t always the greatest thing to have before a game.”
The mental side not only presents itself before and during games but also after them.
A key separating factor between good pitchers and great pitchers is how well they’re able to rebound after a tough outing. Boudreau was not exempt from rough starts throughout this season, he had two starts in which he allowed nine and 10 runs respectively.
After both of those starts, he answered right back with a quality start in his next game.
“My thing is to take two positives for every negative at every start, even if it’s bad, even if it’s good. The biggest thing for me is just to clear my mind as fast as I can. It’s really all about [self] evaluation,” said Boudreau.
Quick turnarounds and self-evaluation defined Midland College’s season, not just Boudreau’s.
The Chaparrals finished the season with a very respectable 42-15 record, during which they never lost more than two games in a row.
Unfortunately, their season ended abruptly at the Region V tournament. Their sole win of the tourney came from the arm of Boudreau.
He pitched eight innings, allowing only three runs in the Chaparrals 9-3 win over McLennan Community College.
The team was unable to get similar pitching in the next two games though, being handed losses by the hands of Weatherford College (9-5) and New Mexico Military Institute (6-1), ending their season.
“That’s the way it goes, you know, we worked hard. That’s the way baseball is,” said Boudreau, who remains optimistic about his path ahead.
“This off-season is a big one for me. I’ll hopefully put on a little bit of weight, a little bit of size, and a little bit of velocity. I’m going to go back to Midland for another year and hopefully transfer to a [NCAA] division one school. That’s the goal.”
Before he returns to Midland next season, Boudreau will spend the summer pitching for the Sylvan Lake Gulls of the WCBL. He went 6-3 with a 2.46 ERA in 12 regular-season games for the Gulls in 2022, while collecting 72 strikeouts in 62 innings. Boudreau also represented the Gulls at the WCBL All-Star Game.
In Sylvan Lake’s first game of the 2023 season against the Fort McMurray Giants on May 26th, Boudreau got the starting nod and did not disappoint. He pitched seven scoreless, allowing only four hits, but was ultimately handed a no-decision as the Gulls walked the game off with a run-scoring fly ball.
(This article was originally published by the Canadian Baseball Network and has been used here with permission).