Like the vast majority of pitchers, Julian Kodama had never even come close to a no-hitter before.
Then, in the span of a week, the Edmonds-Woodway senior came within a whisker of throwing two in a row.
Kodama tossed a five-inning no-hitter in a mercy-rule win over Lynnwood on April 18, then threw 6 2/3 hitless innings before reaching the pitch-count limit in a 1-0 win over Shorecrest on April 25.
In all, the right-hander pitched 11 2/3 straight innings of no-hit ball.
“I have never had that (happen) as a coach,” Edmonds-Woodway coach Dan Somoza said. “To throw one no-hitter is amazing, much less two — and in back-to-back weeks, too. To have that sort of stuff for two weeks in a row is pretty impressive.”
Over the two games, Kodama struck out 22 of the 39 batters he faced. He allowed just five base-runners — three walks and two hit batters.
“His fastball was on and his curveball was on,” Somoza said. “We didn’t really even have to play much defense, to be honest. It was just him striking guys out. … He was on top of his game both times, so it was fun to watch.”
During the Lynnwood game, Kodama said he was so locked in that he didn’t know until afterward that he’d thrown a no-hitter.
“To be honest, I didn’t even know I was throwing one until after the game (when) everyone told me,” he said. “I was just so focused. … I was shocked, because I’d never even come close to one before.”
In the Shorecrest game, Kodama was two strikes away from back-to-back no-hitters when he reached the 105-pitch limit and had to be removed. Reliever Tai Starchman came in and recorded the final out to seal the victory.
“I was a little depressed, because I knew that I was throwing a no-hitter,” Kodama said of reaching the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association’s pitch-count limit. “I wanted to throw back-to-back no-hitters, especially a complete-game (no-hitter).
“It was the last batter and I ran out of pitches, and I was just like, ‘Come on.’ I was sad. But then Tai came in and shut them down, so he kept it going.”
Kodama credited his success in the Shorecrest game to pitching coach Stephen Bougher, who had been working with him on keeping his front leg straighter when planting it into the ground. Kodama said that prior to the change, he was losing power by bending his leg too much.
“He’s the best pitching coach I’ve ever had, so obviously I was going to listen,” Kodama said. “I worked on that every day with him for a week, and then I tried it out against Shorecrest and it worked.”
Kodama has been brilliant all season, posting a 1.29 earned-run average and .137 opponents’ batting average in 32 2/3 innings pitched. He has 50 strikeouts and just 14 walks.
It’s a marked improvement from last season, when Kodama worked out of the bullpen and posted a 3.92 ERA in 25 innings. He struck out 14 batters last year and walked 20.
“As he’s gotten older (and) more mature as an 18-year-old, he’s learned not just to throw but how to pitch to batters, which I think is really important,” Somoza said. “How to set hitters up (and) hit spots. And his velocity has gone up each year, too.”
Kodama, who plans to continue his career at Bellevue College next year, also excels at the plate and plays shortstop when he’s not pitching. He’s batting .373 this season with two home runs and eight doubles.
“The guy works really hard on his game,” Somoza said. “He’s always in the weight room, always working on his craft. (He) loves the game of baseball.”
Including both the final inning of his April 11 start against Meadowdale and his one-inning stint against Shorewood on Tuesday, Kodama enters the postseason having pitched 13 2/3 consecutive innings without allowing a hit.
Edmonds-Woodway (12-8), which finished tied for second place in the Wesco 3A South, opens the Class 3A Northwest District tournament with a quarterfinal matchup against Snohomish on Saturday.
“Every time he goes out and pitches, we feel we have a great chance to win,” Somoza said. “It’s been a pretty special year for him, and hopefully we can ride it into the playoffs. It’s always important to have that one big ace that you can count on.”