In the final game of the 2016 Nebraska state baseball tournament, Millard West sophomore Colby Gomes took the mound against Creighton Prep, the state’s premier baseball program. Gomes, then a lanky, promising pitcher, hadn’t pitched against Prep in the earlier meeting between the two teams in which Prep won 11-1. But this time, he was out there with a chance to take home the hardware.
His coach, Steve Frey, sums up Gomes’s outing simply. “He really struggled.”
Gomes went 3.1 innings, giving up 6 earned runs on 8 hits with two walks. To say it wasn’t his day is probably an understatement. Creighton Prep won 13-8 and took home yet another state title.
His coaches knew Gomes need to grow. He needed a different level of maturity and a way to control the fiery energy he possessed.
“What he’s got to learn to do is just be careful about getting too high and too low,” Frey said.
Gomes has clearly taken it to heart. In his follow-up junior campaign, Gomes led the Wildcats with a 5-1 record, recording an outstanding 1.56 ERA. His play garnered a selection to the All-Nebraska baseball team.
But Millard West again fell short in the state tournament. And grow Gomes did.
Now a 6-5 senior, Gomes is on a mission. He locked in on baseball this year, foregoing his senior basketball season to focus on his craft. “I think getting hurt in the last (basketball) game of the season last year didn’t boost my confidence too much,” Gomes said. “I wanted to be the best I could possibly be coming into my senior season.”
He’s always had the fastball. He can touch the low 90s with the heater. The difference this year is the addition of off-speed pitches.
“He’s starting to locate his breaking ball better. He’s starting to use more of a changeup,” Frey said. “Rather than just trying to throw it by everybody, he’s trying to be more of a pitcher.”
As for the maturity, Gomes has that working in his favor now, too. Thanks to a great support system, he’s grown up. ” He’s got some good friends. His parents are very level-headed,” Frey said. “They’re not that typical baseball parent that’s expecting too much out of him. They just want him to be successful and do his best.”
His fire has been channeled. It’s now a motivational tool for big moments. Teammates gravitate to the energy and feed off it. The calm is something he needs for the next level.
Gomes has been committed to the University of Nebraska since December of 2015, before his sophomore season. Nebraska head coach Darin Erstad offered the scholarship after seeing Gomes pitch in the summer of 2015, before Gomes had ever suited up for the varsity team at Millard West.
Gomes gave his commitment immediately. “Nebraska was my dream school. I’ve always wanted to go there, he said. “I decided to jump on it. I didn’t want it to go to waste.”
But before the big right-hander heads off to college, he’s got unfinished business. First, it’s Creighton Prep.
“I think we’ve had a chip on our shoulder to try and beat them,” Gomes said. “I think it’s definitely one of the bigger rivalries in the state of Nebraska.”
But the ultimate goal, the reason Gomes gave up on playing basketball, lies at the end of the season.
“To get Millard West a state championship.”
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