West Ranch coach Casey Burrill was a two-time All-CIF catcher at Hart High. He was an All-American at USC. He played minor league baseball.
Still, Wildcats lefty Timmy Josten masters the inside and outside of the plate with consistency Burrill has never been around.
“Oh, yeah, anywhere,” Burrill says. “His control is just second to none.”
Rival Foothill League coaches agree: The Cal State Fullerton signee places the ball where he wants to, when he wants to, with any of four pitches.
A 2-0 changeup? No problem.
An 0-0 curve? Most certainly.
Josten, though, isn’t content with mastery. The reigning Foothill League Pitcher of the Year is working toward a doctorate in pitch location, while building velocity, maturing emotionally and continuing to be the area’s most sociable slinger.
No shave November (and every other month)
It’s five days before West Ranch’s Foothill League opener Wednesday at Golden Valley, and Josten is holding court outside the Wildcats’ home dugout.
The topic: the flowing locks of hair he’s fallen in love with.
Josten’s brown mane hasn’t been cut in at least eight months.
“Literally, I don’t even remember, it’s been so long,” he says.
A reason for the growth, he says, is that he looks young without it.
Not helping matters, Josten, 17, has never shaved. Not once.
And at 5-feet-10, he certainly doesn’t look the part of a large, scruffy, flame-throwing monster one might expect to see headed for high-level Division 1 baseball.
Then again, Josten doesn’t have to be.
He throws a fastball, curve, change and cutter. All for strikes. All in any count.
“He’s just really good at hitting spots,” says Valencia coach Mike Killinger. “He can overpower you, but he doesn’t try to. He nibbles the corners and makes you hit his pitch.”
Josten didn’t display his best control against Killinger’s Vikings on May 12 last season (he walked a season-high four), but he held Valencia to three runs over seven innings in a West Ranch win that gave it a share of the Foothill League title with the Vikings.
Josten was saving his best for last. In his final start of the year, he tossed a complete-game four-hitter against No. 2 seed El Toro of Lake Forest in the quarterfinals of the CIF-Southern Section Division 1 playoffs.
He struck out five and escaped a bases-loaded jam in the bottom of the seventh to secure a 2-1 win.
“He’s a guy who’s a bulldog,” says Canyon coach Drew Peterson. “I’ve seen him only for one year, but he reminds me of (Dodgers great) Orel Hershiser, someone you give the ball to, a bulldog who eats innings, goes out and pounds the zone, throws all pitches for strikes. That makes him tough.”
Working out religiously
Jim Wagner is the pitching coach at West Ranch and the owner/operator of the TZAcademy baseball training facility in Santa Clarita. He also grew up catholic.
“If I don’t go to church,” Wagner says, “I can hear my mom’s voice in the back of my head.”
Wagner believes Josten hears a similar voice. Not his mother’s voice, of course, but one that urges Josten to strive for pitching perfection, one that’s been haunting him since around the time he concluded his sophomore season.
Josten posted a 2.80 ERA in nine varsity starts as a sophomore and committed to Fullerton the following summer, putting him at risk of complacency, Wagner says.
Instead, the opposite took place. Josten committed to everything involved in being a great pitcher. Namely, he started taking seriously his day-after-outing responsibilities, like analyzing the outing, playing long toss and conditioning.
His mindset has become, “well now that I had a good outing, I need to be better in my next outing,” Wagner says. “That’s truly the mark of a great pitcher, not resting on” what’s been accomplished.
Josten now works out at TZAcademy four nights a week. He practices with the Wildcats in the early afternoon, then goes home, jumps rope, eats and “chills” before heading to TZA around 7:30.
The next two and half hours consist of arm care, weighted-ball work and agilities.
What drives Josten to commit the time and energy?
“I know that what I’m doing now, I might be pitching well against high school players,” Josten says, “but obviously not everyone is a future Division 1 athlete. I’m always trying to pitch and my mindset is always as if those people are D1 athletes. I’m always trying to prepare for Fullerton.
“As much as I care about high school ball, that is my next step.”
Josten also knows that pitching matchups loom against Valencia’s Ben Fariss (UC Santa Barbara signee) and Chase Farrell (UCLA) and Hart’s Bryce Collins (Arizona).
“There are guys in this league who are going to be right there,” Josten says. “If I don’t have my stuff, it’s going to be a dogfight for whoever wins.”
Josten’s stature is another driving force behind the arduous work that’s raised his average fastball from 80-82 mph at the beginning of last season to, currently, 86-88.
“Some things aren’t in my control,” he says. “I feel an obligation to try to work harder.”
A pitcher of the people
At a recent practice, Josten bounds out of the dugout to greet a visitor.
“How’s it going? Haven’t seen you in a while,” he says.
Josten is engaging and friendly. Even after earning all-state honors last season, he makes people feel important. There’s always an energy to his tone.
“The only thing bigger than Timmy’s pitching,” says assistant coach Ryan Lindgreen, “is his personality.”
Josten may not be the most well-known student on West Ranch’s campus, but he’s close. He’s one of four “Pack” leaders responsible for building buzz within West Ranch’s student section at football and basketball games.
“It’s almost that 1980s high school quarterback feel,” Lindgreen says, “where everyone knows his name and what he looks like.”
That liked-by-all mentality has posed a challenge for Josten this spring, though. As a senior, he is expected to lead, expected to call players out if they’re slacking off.
“I’m too nice to people sometimes,” he says. “I don’t want to get on their bad side.”
It’s something he’s working on.
Like every other area of his game.