URBANA — Michael Bales was a member of Urbana High School's junior varsity baseball team as a freshman.
Put together more pitching performances like the one he delivered last week, and the rising sophomore will be varsity-bound in no time.
Bales fanned nearly everyone he faced in a June 3 outing for Urbana Legion Post 71 in a road victory over Rantoul, compiling 21 strikeouts across seven innings while permitting just one hit.
"My pitching arm felt good, and I found a good release point," the 14-year-old right-hander said. "I just had consistent strikes."
Bales didn't have to wait long to recognize this mound effort would be special. He tossed 18 pitches — all strikes — in the first two frames for a pair of immaculate innings.
He couldn't recall ever recording one before that point.
"Most of the time it was my fastball (working well). It was very consistent," Bales said. "I thought, 'Why not go for more?'"
And he did just that.
The lone blemish on his record was a line drive back up the middle, which Bales got leather on but couldn't haul in.
"I just didn't really focus on that one too much," said Bales, who noted the knock occurred in the fourth or fifth inning. "If I kept doing what I was doing, it wouldn't really be a problem."
Bales, who was back on the bump again last Monday for his legion squad, said reaction to his success was immediate.
"A couple people came up to me and said they hadn't seen anything like that," Bales said. "My dad was there. He was impressed."
Bales offered some credit to Austin Tabeling, facility administrator of The Cage training establishment in Champaign, saying Tabeling provided Bales valuable stretches and drills "that made me better on the field."
No doubt the Tigers will be closely watching Bales' progression once the 2019-2020 school year begins.
"I didn't really feel much after the game," Bales said. "I did what I was supposed to do. I got the job done, I guess."