MALIBU — It was the perfect setting to relax and reflect on a job of parenting well done.
Janelle Evans' son, Keith, stood confidently on the mound in his California Bears' uniform at Pepperdine on Friday, shutting down the home team with the limitless horizon of the Pacific serving as a backdrop.
Janelle's husband and Keith's father, Bill, died of cancer when Keith was 7, and Janelle was the one to slip on a catcher's mask, get into a crouch and block her growing son's pitches so they wouldn't roll down a steep hill beyond their yard in Canoga Park.
And she caught every one of his games at Woodland Hills Sunrise Little League, West Hills Pony League and Crespi High from the stands, keeping score and cheering anxiously as Keith developed into a 6-foot-5 Division I pitcher.
Yes, now Janelle could sit back and enjoy. Or could she?
There she was at Pepperdine, scorebook in hand, nervously rubbing her thumb and forefingers together, fretting that Keith had thrown too many pitches early in the game.
Some things never change.
"I'm a bundle of nerves," she said. "I always am when he pitches."
This game, like most over the years, had a happy ending for Evans. The junior right-hander pitched six shutout innings and Cal went on to win, 2-0.
This is a pivotal season for Evans, who is eligible for the major league draft in June. The stands were full of scouts and Evans' fastball was clocked as high as 87 mph.
One scout at the game projected Evans, 20, to be a seventh- to ninth-round pick. He has an excellent curve, good control and poise, and at his height could easily gain several more pounds of muscle. He weighs 200.
After the game he and his mom drove off to have dinner with a prospective agent.
"Keith has wanted to be a professional baseball player for as long as I can remember," Janelle said. "He got his good arm from his dad and he is extremely dedicated. I have a tremendous respect and admiration for him."
At Crespi, Evans pitched in the shadow of Jeff Suppan, who made his debut with the Boston Red Sox last season. But he has been the ace at Cal since the day he set foot on campus, leading the staff in innings as a freshman and sophomore.
Evans was 7-6 with a 4.39 earned-run average last year and he is a major reason the Bears are ranked No. 5 in Collegiate Baseball magazine's preseason poll.
"I'm coming into this season healthy and I although I didn't feel especially strong today I think I'll pick up my arm strength pretty early," Evans said.
A back injury in the fall of 1994 slowed at the start of last season. He didn't feel right until a game at Cal State Long Beach when his godfather and former Little League coach, Randy Niles, watched him pitch and tinkered with his mechanics in the parking lot.
"Randy taught me pretty much everything I know about baseball," Evans said. "He caught in the minor leagues and knows pitching. He developed my pitching philosophy."
Niles sat in the front row Friday. His son, Brett, is a third baseman at Glendale College who played at Calabasas High last season, and Niles missed Brett's doubleheader at Rio Hondo to watch Evans.
"I'll see Brett all year," Niles said. "This is my chance to see Keith."
Evans appreciated the audience.
"It's fantastic to pitch with my mom and Randy here," he said. "That's the best part of coming down here: pitching for the people I love."