Noah Schultz is a case study for just how much things can change for a high school baseball player in two years.
Opposing batters who don’t check the internet will soon find out.
Schultz, Oswego East’s 6-foot-9 junior left-handed pitcher, had a six-inch growth spurt the summer before his freshman year. Then he grew another six inches before his sophomore year.
A young man who sat 76-79 miles per hour with his fastball the last time he pulled on an Oswego East baseball uniform, maybe hitting 82 once, now can creep into the low 90s.
Schultz made a verbal commitment to pitching powerhouse Vanderbilt, a school that has produced big-leaguers like Walker Buehler and David Price, before he even made his varsity debut, which comes this week.
“It happened fast for him,” Oswego East coach Matt Engelhardt said. “We’ve seen a little bit of growth freshman and sophomore years with kids, but not in this kind of time frame. In Noah’s case it was dramatic.”
Schultz, whose older sisters Emily and Ashley starred for Oswego East’s softball program, said that doctors told his parents at his yearly physical when he was younger that me might grow to be 6-3 or 6-4. After his first six-inch growth spurt, the doctor said that the growth plates were more open than before and the initial projections might have been mistaken.
“It was definitely unexpected. I knew I was going to be tall, but not the fast,” Schultz said.
Schultz said that he had to go to physical therapy during the growth spurt, basically relearning how to walk, doing daily stretches. If he took a week off, everything would tense up. He couldn’t lift while he was growing, finally resuming lifting last fall. He was behind the game, but has since caught up, putting 20 pounds on to a now 220-pound frame.
A kid Schultz used to play with from Plainfield East introduced him to pitching coach Mark Sheehan from Evolution Athletics, who changed Schultz’s mechanics from an over the top delivery to a three-quarters arm slot.
“He helped me gain velocity; right now I go to see him 6-7 times a week,” Schultz said. “Everything he’s done for me, there’s nothing bad that’s come out of that.”
Sheehan convinced Schultz to move up in competition and play travel ball with the Cangelosi Sparks. The fall of 2019, he went down and played in a tournament in Ft. Myers, Fla. An assistant coach with Schultz’s team was former roommates with an assistant coach at Vanderbilt.
Fourteen coaches called Schultz after the Ft. Myers tournament and two months later he committed to Vanderbilt.
“It’s crazy,” Schultz said. “To think the year before I was throwing low to mid 70s and now what’s happened in the last year or so, it’s been crazy.”
Schultz was ranked the No. 17 junior in the country by Baseball America last fall, and has been given the highest rating of a 10 by Perfect Game, which signifies a potential very high draft pick or elite college pitcher. And it’s easy to see why.
Engelhardt said that he has refined abilities for a pitcher his size, and can command three pitches to go along with his velocity.
“We always knew he could throw hard, and over the course of his freshman year we continued to be amazed with how well he threw, and he grew into his body,” Engelhardt said. “For a guy his size that’s that young to command pitches and be coordinated and mix three pitches, that’s a testament to how hard he’s been working. He does command all his pitches and has a unique skill set.”
Schultz also looks to have the intangibles a coach like Engelhardt likes to see, nominated by his peers to be a team captain as a junior.
“He has been willing to play whatever roles we’ve needed,” Engelhardt said. “Being a [pitcher only], not swinging a bat, a lot of down time, he’ll say can I throw BP, can I take throws at first base. He has plugged and played four or five different roles. It’s nice to see guys with that high-end talent willing to do the nitty gritty. It’s a testament to his character.”
With two years between high school baseball games, and such a meteoric rise, Schultz seems somewhat of a unicorn on the varsity scene. He’s eager to play with guys he grew up with, eager to prove themselves, especially after Schultz noted that Oswego East wasn’t ranked by the Prep Baseball Report last spring.
“We are ranked 15 right now,” he said. “We have a chip on our shoulder. We didn’t get to play last season and we want to prove that we’re the best team in the conference, and back it up. I feel we will.”