Central junior Cole Spitzer might just be the best high school pitcher in the state few people have heard of. But like anything else, if you’re good enough you don’t stay unknown forever.

The 5-foot-10, 150-pound lefty has a fastball that tops out at 88 mph. He also throws a curve, slider and changeup. Through May 18 he had a miniscule 0.39 ERA, which ranked among the best in the state, over 35-2/3 innings pitched. He also had recorded 72 strikeouts, second most in the state, while allowing only 16 hits and giving up just 15 walks.

Central baseball
Central’s Cole Spitzer (10) is congratulated by teammates after hitting a solo home run in a 10-2 win over Highland Park on May 5. Photo by Brad Stauffer

He’s 2-1 this year, with nothing but quality starts. That includes a complete-game shutout against a talented Highland Park team in early May in which he fanned 15 batters. “The last time I faced them I struggled with my command,” Spitzer recalled. “This year I threw mostly fastballs in the game.”

Central coach Adam Hunkins doesn’t hold back when asked about the performance of his pitching ace. “He’s been fantastic,” he said. “He just pounds the strike zone. He gets all of our tough games, and he knows it.”

   

Hunkins served up the major reason why Spitzer has gone unheralded. “Our conference doesn’t get a whole lot of respect,” he said.

It’s true that inner-city baseball has taken it on the chin in recent years, as better-funded and more visible suburban and outstate programs have developed better players. But Hunkins quickly added, “That has nothing to do with Cole.”

Heading into the final week of the regular season, Central was 8-5 overall and on top of the Saint Paul City Conference with an 8-0 record. And Spitzer is a big reason why.

 

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Central coach Adam Hunkins doesn’t hold back when asked about the performance of his pitching ace. “He’s been fantastic,” he said. “He just pounds the strike zone. He gets all of our tough games, and he knows it.”

Spitzer can bring the heat and can generally put the ball anywhere he wants to. He knows he’ll probably need to fill out through weight-training and other conditioning for him to pitch successfully in college. But he said strength isn’t the only thing a pitcher needs.

“I try to use the ground really well,” he said. “You just try to move your body the right way to get everything you have into each pitch.”

While many young pitchers shy away from throwing the slider because it can injure their arms more easily, Spitzer doesn’t feel that way. To throw a good slider, he said, you have to grip the ball and then pull down on it as if closing a shade. “You just need to find the safest way to throw it,” he said.

Spitzer never really thought much about being a pitcher as a youngster playing ball in the Highland Groveland Recreation Association. Then one day when he was about 8 years old, “I just volunteered for it,” he said. He credits his father for helping him hone his throwing technique.

Spitzer started pitching for Central last year when he was one of only two sophomores to make the varsity squad. He’s been so good since that he’s earned himself a personal catcher, Peyton Vang, who is the only one who can handle his stuff. Spitzer said he and Vang are always on the same page.

“Peyton really knows how to call a game and he’s very athletic behind the plate,” Spitzer said.

Spitzer recently was offered a college scholarship to a Division I university. He’s grateful for the offer, but that’s not to say he doesn’t look forward to many more as he looks ahead to his senior year. 

When Spitzer isn’t pitching, he’s more than capable of swinging a bat. He was hitting almost .400 through May 18. He can also play outfield and serve as designated hitter when he’s not pitching.

“I’m just a guy who likes to run around and have fun on the ballfield,” he said.

— Bill Wagner

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