For the three seasons he's been in professional baseball, Tyler Matzek has listened to dozens of coaches all well-meaning, each with his own idea on how to bring out the best in the talented left-hander.
But the most important lesson Matzek and every other pitcher eventually has to learn is that the most important voice to heed is his own.
For the last four starts, that's been the lone voice in Matzek's head, and Friday he used his own advice to pitch the Modesto Nuts into the second round of the California League playoffs with a 2-0 victory over San Jose.
"I've just found a rhythm where I'm throwing strikes and it feels real comfortable right now so I'm sticking with it," Matzek said. "I'm hoping to build off this because it just all feels so comfortable."
Matzek went 7ª innings, limiting the Giants to five singles while walking only one and striking out five as San Jose advanced only one runner as far as second base.
Isaiah Froneberger and Adam Jorgenson got the final five outs of the 2-1 series win as the Nuts advanced to the best-of-five North Division championship series, which starts with games tonight and Sunday afternoon in Bakersfield.
Because Modesto won the second half and finished with a better overall record than the Blaze, the Nuts earned the right to host all deciding games, so the final three games of the series, as needed, will be at John Thurman Field starting Monday.
The journey of Matzek has been well-documented. He's a first-round draft pick who received a $3.9 million signing bonus out of high school, but has battled control issues.
The most famous move of his young career came last season, when he was sent from Modesto to Asheville, then allowed to return home during the season to work with his own coaches.
The inconsistency continued this year, with Matzek going 4-3, with a 3.24 ERA in the first half, and 2-5, 6.15 in the second half. But in his last four starts, Matzek is 2-0, 1.04 with 25 strikeouts against six walks in 26 innings.
And, according to Nuts' manager Lenn Sakata, Matzek's success is due to him finding his own way on the mound.
"You have to throw your natural way, and it always comes down to that," Sakata said. "If you try to emulate something that's not for you, it won't work. Those things are intrinsic, genetic. You come out of the womb and you're going to throw a certain way. If you try to do something other than that you'll be smashing your head against a wall.
"He has to throw athletically. He can't try to copy the formula of Mike Marshall or Tom House, or anybody's mechanical stuff. Just throw. If he does that he'll be very, very good."
Modesto got all the offense it would need in the first when Rafael Ortega singled with one out, stole second and scored on Jared Clark's two-out single to left. The Nuts added a run in the fourth as Dallas Tarleton led off with a single, moved to second on Tim Smalling's single and scored on Joey Wong's flare to left-center.
Froneberger inherited a runner at first base with one out in the eighth and induced an inning-ending double play ground ball. He stayed in to get the first two outs of the ninth, then Adam Jorgenson retired Adam Duvall on a fly to right to cue the celebration.
NUTS NOTES Kennil Gomez (4-5, 5.14) and Juan Gonzalez (6-13, 6.03) are the scheduled starters for the two games in Bakersfield. Tonight's game starts at 7:05 p.m., while Sunday's game is a 1:05 p.m. start. Once the series returns to Modesto, the Nuts will have Christian Bergman, Josh Mueller and Matzek lined up for Games 3-4-5, all 7:05 p.m. starts.