Brock Jones bided his time.
A left-handed pitcher with a 90-plus miles per hour fastball and a sharp-breaking curve, Jones found himself relegated to the bullpen in 2018 because he just so happened to be on a team that was strong enough to finish third among the state’s Class 2A teams.
With Olympian All-Area player of the year Tyson Guerrero and Los Angeles Dodgers’ draftee Brandon White – now teammates at Washington State University – gobbling up most of the starts for W.F. West High School, Jones became the closer, and a good one. He struck out 39 batters in 18 innings on his way to a 3-0 record and 1.17 earned run average.
Fifth-year Bearcats coach Bryan Bullock said Jones knew the situation and embraced being a closer.
“He’s so ultra-competitive, he enjoyed having the ball in his hands at the end, with the game on the line,” Bullock said.
Jones said coming into a strong program with a group of players he’s known for a long time made it easy to adjust to his role.
“I knew I needed to wait my turn,” he said. “I’m a big supporter of Tyson and Brandon. Everybody on our high school team has played together since T-ball, so I knew it was their time to shine. I did my best to be behind them and help however I could.”
In addition to his stellar pitching, he contributed at the plate. He batted .412 with 22 runs scored and 28 runs RBI last season.
Jones has signed a letter of intent to play at the University of Washington. But unlike Guerrero, who is projected to both pitch and play the outfield at WSU, Jones’ future beyond high school is on the mound.
“He’s a hard-throwing left-handed pitcher, they’ll have him focus on that,” said Bullock.
Already equipped with velocity and a curve ball, Jones will need a reliable third pitch to succeed at the highest levels. Unwillingly to risk a young arm teaching a split finger, Bullock has been working with Jones on a straight change-up that’s almost ready for prime time.
“I’ll probably pull it out in one of my next couple of outings,” Jones said.
Even if hitting won’t be part of his future as a Pac-12 player, Jones is a threat with the bat for the Bearcats, the third man up in the order.
“He’s got a very quick, natural, left-handed swing,” Bullock said. “Last year, we had some really good lefty hitters. We could mix them throughout the order and create match-up problems for opponents.”
This season, Jones is 2-1 with a 1.00 ERA and a 0.42 WHIP. He’s struck out 32 batters in just 14 innings.
More than a few Major League Baseball scouts have made it their business to convince Jones to pass on college.
“At his first outing, some of our players’ parents counted 28 scouts in the stands,” Bullock said.
A year ago, Jones watched White go through that process before opting to attend WSU. White was the Dodgers’ 14th round selection, but chose not to sign when Los Angeles’ offer wasn’t enough to make skipping college sensible.
Jones isn’t discounting the possibility of signing a pro contract this summer, but is focused on joining the Washington program.
“I fell in love with the campus and the coaches are great,” said Jones. “Growing up, I was a UW fan, my whole family are UW fans.”
More to the point was the baseball side of the equation. Husky head coach Lindsay Meggs was excited on signing day.
“Brock is a power arm from the left side who has a chance to make an impact the minute he steps foot on campus,” Meggs said. “I’ve seen him dominate people with a fastball that touches 92-93. I’ve seen him finish off left- and right-handed hitters with a wipeout slider. I believe he’s a game changer.”
Jones speaks just as highly of the Husky staff, particularly pitching coach Jason Kelly.
“I’ve had so many scouts and summer coaches tell me he’s the best. I can tell from watching his pitching workouts he can help me progress in the fastest and best way possible,” Jones said. “He wants success for his players, not for himself.”
Meanwhile, Jones still sees some unfinished business to accomplish at W.F. West.
In each of the last two years, the Bearcats’ season has ended with a 2A state final four loss to Ellensburg. In 2017, they lost the championship game to the Bulldogs, 5-1. Last year, W.F. West fell to Ellensburg, 4-0 in the semi-finals.
‘I want to end this season with a pile-up on the field and a ringer on my finger,” Jones said.