One by one, Eastern York senior pitcher Colby Shimmel worked through the Columbia lineup.
By the time he got to the third inning, he could anticipate something special taking place against Eastern's rival from across the Susquehanna River. Once he got his command down, each frame became more and more dominant than the prior one, until finally, in the bottom of the fifth inning, he recorded the final out of the Golden Knights' 12-0 victory without allowing a hit.
"The feeling is always great to throw a no-hitter," he said. "It's such a personal accomplishment, but the only thing that really mattered was that it got our team off to a 1-0 start."
Pure domination: It was the first no-hitter of Shimmel's high school career, and, without a doubt, one of his most dominant pitching performances ever. That's saying something, considering he's coming off a junior season when he posted a 1.11 ERA while winning five games and saving one.
The no-hitter in itself was an impressive feat, but consider this — of the 15 outs that he had to record, all of them came via strikeout. His only blemish came on a first-inning walk, preventing him from a perfect game. So he hardly needed a team behind him, which speaks to the dominance of his start. Shimmel's outing even led to some jokes from his teammates, who said they should've just left their gloves on the bus. Truthfully, they weren't wrong.
However, in the case of a no-hitter, it's as much about a pitcher's stuff on any given day as it is mental. As he said, by the time the third inning set in, he started to think about the no-hitter. At that point, Shimmel had to do anything he could to not let the moment take over his game.
"The scoreboard was definitely in our favor by a good margin," he said. "But, I just had to keep telling myself 'it's a 1-0 lead, gotta stay out here, can't give up a run and get the team the win.'"
Plenty of runs: While Shimmel barely needed the other seven fielders behind him, he still needed the run support. On Thursday, one run would've been sufficient the way he was pitching, but to be safe, Eastern exploded for 12 runs, shortening the game from seven innings to five because of the 10-run mercy rule that came into effect. Shimmel played a part in helping his own cause, as well, recording an RBI double and scoring twice in the victory. Of course, Shimmel is a pretty good hitter too. After all, he boasted a .484 average a season ago.
Getting that type of offensive support makes any pitcher's job easy, but it could've also been the difference between Shimmel throwing a no-hitter, or the game having to go the full seven innings, and who knows what could've happened in those final two frames.
Shimmel isn't a pitcher who will overpower hitters. His best pitch to get ahead of the batter is his fastball, but that usually sits in the low-to-mid 80s. He's been clocked this year at 83 mph, but touched 87 mph last season. After that, he has an arsenal of offspeed and breaking pitches that he's confident in throwing to put hitters away, including a circle change, splitter and curve ball. Shimmel will continue his baseball career next year at Hill College, located in Hillsboro, Texas.
"You're in control at all times": In the opening week of the spring sports season around the York-Adams League, Shimmel's no-no was, without a doubt, the headline among many strong individual performances. Of course, the only downfall of kicking off the season with a no-hitter is trying to make every start after it live up to that first one.
While Shimmel realizes the difficulty in throwing another no-hitter, let alone a couple more, his first start of the season is at the level he wants to maintain.
"Every time I take the mound, I feel as if I should be dominating the game," he said. "So, just have the confidence to go out there and play. Obviously, you're not going to (go) the entire season (without giving up a hit), but as the pitcher, you gotta feel like you're controlling the mound. You're the one on top and need to make the hitter stay off balance and you gotta feel like you're in control at all times."
— Reach Patrick Strohecker at firstname.lastname@example.org