DURHAM, N.C. -- Last season, Duke and North Carolina added to the allure of their college basketball rivalry with a game that saw Austin Rivers sinking the final shot to win 85-84 in Cameron Indoor Stadium.

More than a 1,000 miles away, in his home in Spring, Texas, Trevor Bauer watched in exuberance and immediately sent a text message to the one person who had been trash talking him throughout the game -- his host mother from USA Baseball, Sonya May.

"She sent me a text asking if I had my tissue box ready," Bauer said. "After Rivers hit that shot, I texted her back, 'I hope you saved that tissue box for yourself.'"

Though he attended UCLA, Bauer has made it well known throughout his playing career that he is a Duke basketball fan. The Valencia, Calif., native grew up watching Mike Krzyzewski and said he fell in love with his style of coaching.

When Bauer made the trip back to North Carolina last year, May scheduled a tour of the facilities and a backstage look at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

"I was completely shocked," Bauer said. "My dad and I were walking down a hallway when Coach K walked by in a tank top and a towel around his neck. We both freaked out a little and had to meet him. That was just an unreal experience for me."

Since the summer of 2008, Bauer has had a special connection to the Durham, N.C., area thanks to USA Baseball and the May family.

So when the Durham Bulls Athletic Park was announced as the site for the Triple-A national championship game, Bauer said he felt extra pressure to help his team win the Pacific Coast League championship.

"I actually found out that it was being held in Durham through Sonya," he said. "It was so funny because I obviously already wanted to win, but she was telling me I had to win so they could watch me."

The No. 3 pick in the 2011 MLB First-Year Player Draft has lived up to expectations this year, boasting a 12-2 record with a 2.42 ERA while splitting time between the Mobile BayBears and Reno Aces outside of a June callup to the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Bauer will be the starter for the Reno Aces when they take on the Pawtucket Red Sox in the Triple-A national championship game on Tuesday night.

"I'm so glad that I get to start because I thrive in these situations," Bauer said. "There is nothing better, for me anyway, than competing for a win. Not that I don't trust my teammates, but I feel confident in myself when I go out there each and every time."

For 15-year-old Thomas May, Sonya's son, Bauer has served as a role model. Since the summer Bauer played in the USA Baseball Tournament of Stars, Thomas has grown to love the sport of baseball and plans to try out for the Cary Academy varsity team in Cary, N.C.

"He calls us his East Coast family," Sonya May said. "Just his presence has made a huge impact on my son and our entire family. To have someone as special and as gifted as Trevor is think that highly of you, it really means something to all of us.

"I'm so thrilled that he has succeeded on such a grand scale because he is just such a great person."

The May family has followed Bauer throughout his career, whether it was the Golden Spikes Award ceremony in New York, where Bauer won the award, or his debut for the D-backs against the Atlanta Braves, his East Coast family has been there.

"It's been an unreal experience to see him grow from a 17-year-old boy to, well, a superstar I guess," May said with a laugh. "We really don't see him as that, but that's what he is. And he deserves every bit of it."