Austin Bode doesn't see himself as an outgoing, vocal leader for his teammates.
He chooses instead to set an example by putting in the necessary work during the offseason and translating that into results on game day, whether that was helping Liberty's football team to an historic season by having a standout year at quarterback, or helping the basketball team have a surprise season by orchestrating the offense at point guard.
Most recently, however, Bode wrapped up a standout athletic career with the Lions by doing it one more time on the baseball diamond. Coming off of a strong season as a pitcher his junior year, Bode wanted to have a stronger all-around game, most notably by improving his hitting.
So one last time this spring, Bode showed his teammates how extra work can pay off, using much of his spare time in the batting cage. Bode not only maintained his dominance on the mound, but also became one of the county's top hitters en route to being named Times Baseball Player of the Year.
"I went to the cage very frequently during the offseason to try to work on my mechanics," Bode said. "During the season, my biggest issue was trying to focus on timing. I put a lot of work into my timing, trying to make sure I was seeing the ball well, because in past years that was my problem."
Bode ended up batting .400 with five doubles, a triple, two home runs, and 17 RBIs in the No. 3 spot in the Lions' lineup. It wasn't the first time in his life, however, that Bode saw progression in his baseball skills.
Bode has been playing baseball since he was five and while his positions in the field changed, he was always a pitcher while playing in recreational leagues for the Sykesville Cyclones and Maryland Cardinals.
From those early years up until high school, Bode said he typically relied on his off-speed pitches and control to get hitters out. But when he started to lift at Liberty, he quickly saw his velocity increase.
"I kind of changed into a harder-throwing, strikeout guy," Bode said. "It worked to my benefit this year."
Bode was 5-2 with a 1.99 ERA on the mound, the two losses coming against Class 2A state semifinalist and county champion South Carroll, and 1A state champion Brunswick. Opposing batters hit just .179 against the Lions' right-hander.
In three years on Liberty's varsity squad, Bode was 14-5 and racked up 96 strikeouts — 39 of those punchouts came this season, which ranked second in the county.
"What makes him really good on the mound is he never gives in," Lions coach Jim Miller said. "He can throw his pitch and you're going to hit his pitch, whether it's 0-2 or 3-1, he wouldn't be afraid to throw a curveball or change-up in that situation."
While Miller has been continually impressed with Bode's pitching skills, his initial plans in his first season at the helm at Liberty were to have Bode just play outfield in his sophomore season.
But after seeing Bode throw a bullpen session, he changed his mind and decided to incorporate the right-hander into his pitching staff.
Bode not only provided consistency on the pitching mound and, this season, run production at the plate, he also provided leadership to a Liberty team that featured nine junior and a sophomore while still managing to finish second in the county standings.
"When Austin was on the mound, it seemed like everybody played their best game," Miller said. "Everybody wanted to win for him and that's just a testament to his leadership."
That could perhaps be said about Bode for the entire 2014-15 school year, whether that was his wide receivers pulling down touchdowns for the senior or his basketball teammates making shots off of dishes.
"Austin did all three and did them all at a very high level," said Robert Bode, Austin's father, via email. "Each time he had a game in any sport we were always wondering what kind of amazing feat he would have that night."
And those accomplishments didn't just happen because of Bode's natural skill, according to Miller.
"Athletic ability-wise, I really don't think there was anybody that was more athletic than Austin," Miller said. "But I think that was part of his drive to be successful. He worked very hard in each offseason to get better."