Taylor Cole took two years off to completely step away from baseball in 2009 and '10 to serve on a church mission in Toronto, and in 2011, he'll be the first to admit he needed some time to return to the game in proper form.
But in 2012, he's back in dominating fashion.
The Blue Jays right-hander prospect allowed five hits and struck out five over six shutout innings Tuesday to lead Class A Short-Season Vancouver past Salem-Keizer, 3-2.
The 22-year-old improved to 3-0 and extended his scoreless streak to a career-best 21 innings with the win, dropping his ERA to an astounding 0.30. An oblique injury that kept the right-hander out for three weeks is the only thing keeping Cole from reaching the innings limit he'd need to lead the Northwest League in ERA.
"I have a lot of confidence right now," he said. "I have some great guys behind me, and Tucker Frawley, who's been my catcher for the most part this year, has done a phenomenal job calling the game with me. Give a lot of credit to those guys. I've just worked hard here to get to this. This is everything to me right now."
Cole's streak could have ended in the third and fourth frames, when the first two batters both reached to start the respective innings. The fourth was the more dangerous of the two as Matthew Duffy singled and Joseph Rapp reached on a missed catch error by second baseman Daniel Arcila to put Volcanoes at the corners with nobody out.
But Cole struck out Charles Jones swinging for the first out and then forced Mitchell Delfino to ground into a double play to end the frame without allowing a run.
"That was a big confidence builder for me," said the Las Vegas native. "It was a good thing to be a part of because I haven't really had to face many guys in that situation with no outs this year. So that kind of pushed me to finish it out."
Cole continued a season during which he's shown vast improvement across the board. In his first professional season after being taken in the 29th round of the Draft last year, the Brigham Young University product was 1-3 with a 5.88 ERA in 11 appearances (eight starts).
While thinking on why last season wasn't such a success, he looked back even further to find the answer.
Cole spent the two years before BYU in Toronto "serving the Lord, however we could" during his mission. That included knocking on doors to discuss his faith with others, helping those in need move from place to place -- in other words, working every day to spread Christianity.
When he looked at that important time in his life a year later, the light bulb went off.
"The harder you work, the more you conspire to work for your own good," said the 6-foot-1 hurler. "I realized when I worked the hardest on my mission, I was the happiest. It helped me deal with being away from family and stuff like that.
"Last year, I wasn't as happy. I was pretty much down in the dumps, I guess you could say, because I just wasn't as successful as I remember. So I worked with my trainer, my mental coach, some pitching guys, and this year has been much better. It's been a blessing really."
Ian Parmley doubled, walked twice and scored once out of the leadoff spot for Vancouver.
Volcanoes right fielder Michael Mergenthaler smacked a two-run homer off the Canadians' Andrew Sikula to bring his team within one in the ninth.