Pitch perfect: Topeka High baseball armed and dangerous in 3-0 start
TOPEKA, Kan. – Max Colombo knows full well there will come a point this baseball season where he’s going to give up a hit to an opposing batter.
Then again …
“I hope not,” Colombo said. “That would be the goal.”
As unattainable as that goal may be, Colombo can still hold out hope it’s possible. Through two outings for Topeka High this season, the junior newcomer has been unhittable.
He teamed with fellow Trojan pitchers Lukas Brennan and Dillon Mitchell for a three-inning perfect game on Monday against Kansas City Washington and then came back on Thursday night to spin a five-inning no-hitter in a 10-0 win over rival Topeka West.
Brennan and Mitchell couldn’t quite match Colombo in Thursday’s nightcap, but weren’t that far off. The duo combined to give up just one hit in a 14-4 win that moved the Trojans to 3-0 on the season.
Even though High’s offense has been more than productive, scoring 39 runs in three games, it’s been the pitching prowess that’s set the tone in the hot start.
“We’ve got the arms to go do it,” High coach Cody Miller said. “This is a talented bunch.”
Miller knew what he had in Brennan, a senior left-hander who is one of the few returning starters from the 2019 Trojan squad. As a sophomore, he went 2-2 with a solid 3.18 ERA.
But both Colombo and Mitchell have been pleasant surprises. Both juniors, Mitchell moved up to the varsity this season while Colombo has been an impact transfer from Cair Paravel.
“It’s been a year since we had them out here and they’ve grown and gotten bigger and stronger,” Miller said. “This is our first year with Max and he’s been a huge addition not just to our staff, but to the middle of our defense and the middle of our lineup. For him to come out and throw like he has, he’s a super competitor.”
In the perfect game against Washington on Monday, Colombo was the only one of the Trojan trio of pitchers who didn’t strike out the side in his inning of work, getting just two. Against West, however, he found his groove and struck out 11 in five innings.
After a 1-2-3 first, the junior righty responded to a leadoff error by striking out the next three batters and then struck out the side in the third as well. His string of six consecutive strikeouts ended when he hit West’s leadoff batter in the fourth, but he struck out three of the next four hitters, giving up a walk as well.
He capped his no-hitter with a 1-2-3 fifth, striking out the final batter.
“I’m feeling confident,” Colombo said. “I’ve had a long year of preparation and I’m just glad to be back out on the mound. That’s my happy place out there.
“Today, my fastball was my big pitch and my curveball was on as well. It was feeling good and I was keeping them off balance.”
Elijah Kincade’s two-run single in the first inning was all the support Colombo needed, but High scored in every inning, collecting nine hits with Kincade and Colombo each getting two and Kincade driving in three runs overall.
High scored in every inning of the second game as well, finishing with 12 hits. But a defensive collapse in the third inning turned a 5-0 game into a 5-4 contest before the Trojans responded with a five-run fourth to break things open.
Despite giving up four runs, Brennan was pretty much in control — three Trojan errors lead to the four-run frame. Though he walked five, Brennan didn’t allow any hits before giving way in the fifth to Mitchell, who worked two scoreless innings and gave up just one hit — the first off the Trojan staff this season.
“At T-High people may sleep on our pitching staff,” Colombo said. “But we’ve got arms and we’re looking for some good competition and we know we’re going to get it.”
Indeed, the Trojans will, starting next week with games against perennial Centennial League powers Manhattan (Monday) and Seaman (Friday).
“Our arms coming out looking like that really bodes well for us going into a tough week next week,” Miller said. “We’ve just got to keep it up because we’ve got a long way to go and the grind is coming up.”
But Miller couldn’t have asked for a much better start, beginning with Monday’s perfect game. High’s offense started the game with three consecutive triples from Addison Sigg, Colombo and Kincadein an 11-run first, but it was the pitch perfect performance that highlighted the outing.
“It went so quick I didn’t even know it happened until someone came up and told me,” Miller said. “It was a single game and I wanted to make sure our big three arms each got an inning. I didn’t know it would go that quick. It went better than expected.”
TOPEKA HIGH 10-14, TOPEKA WEST 0-4
Putthoff, Malcom (4) and Murray. Colombo and E. Kincade. WP — Colombo. LP — Putthoff. 3B — High: I. Kincade.
Boydstun, Speaker (4) and Murray, Mohan (5). Brennan, Mitchell (5) and Daniels. WP — Brennan. LP — Boydstun. 2B — High: Keeling 2.
Records — West, 2-4; High, 3-0.