Keystone Oaks baseball ace shines in blowout win over Elizabeth Forward
Keystone Oaks coach Scott Crimone is as enamored with Jared Skolnicki's gaudy statistics as much as the next guy.
Though Skolnicki's record has been perfect, his ERA miniscule and the strikeouts plenty, there's one part of his game that never fails to impress Crimone.
“Poise,” the coach said.
Elizabeth Forward coach Frank Champ won't argue.
After staying perfect through three innings, Skolnicki worked himself out of trouble in the fourth, fifth and sixth. Then, Keystone Oaks exploded for seven runs in the seventh to blow open a close game and advance to the quarterfinals of the Class AAA playoffs with a 10-0 win over Elizabeth Forward at West Mifflin.
“It is always his poise that blows us away,” Crimone said.
Keystone Oaks (16-4) will take on Section 3 foe Chartiers Valley (17-4), a 2-1 winner over Belle Vernon, on Wednesday at a time and site to be determined. The two teams split their season series.
“I tip my hat to that pitcher. He was very good,” Champ said. “He has all those wins and all those stats this year for a reason.”
Skolnicki, a Kent State recruit, improved to 8-0 and lowered his ERA to 0.29. He finished with a complete game, allowing four hits while striking out 12 on 94 pitches.
“And to be honest, he wasn't as dominating as he usually is,” Crimone said. “It's hard to believe, but it's true.”
Taylor Lehman had a double, single and four RBI, and Skolnicki, Ryan Ribeau and Nick Riggle added two hits and an RBI to lead Keystone Oaks.
Mark Adams picked up the loss for Elizabeth Forward (13-7). He was solid through six innings, allowing only a first-inning Lehman two-out, two-run double and a Lehman sacrifice fly in the sixth before the Warriors imploded in the seventh. Keystone Oaks scored seven unearned runs to make a close game a blowout.
“One or two hits here or there, and it's a different game,” Champ said.
Those hits never came mostly because Skolnicki was his best when he had to be:
• Elizabeth Forward put the first two runners on in the fourth just to have Skolnicki strike out Ryan Wardropper, get Jake Terrick out at the plate on Ryan Thornton's comebacker and force Matt Diehl to pop out to third to end the inning.
• With runners on first and third with one out in the fifth, Skolnicki struck out Justin Bakewell and Terrick to end the threat.
• With runners on first and third with one out in the sixth, Skolnicki got Diehl to bounce back to the mound and Steve Welsh to roll to first to end the inning.
“We just never got that timely hit, that hit in a crucial situation,” Champ said. “We had so many opportunities but weren't able to come up with that hit. We had the meat of the order coming up, and if we got anything there — even a fly ball — and it might've swung a little momentum our way.”
Instead, the momentum went to Keystone Oaks.
The Golden Eagles took advantage of two Adams errors in the seventh, sending 13 batters to plate.
Six consecutive batters — Brandon Gresh, Skolnicki, Ribeau, Lehman, Riggle, Walt Hepner — drove in runs to knock Adams out of the game.
“Give Mark credit. He settled down and pitched well after the first,” Champ said. “If we could've pushed one or two across, I probably wouldn't have left Mark out there that long, but would've/should've. I wish it was 3-2 heading into the last inning, but we didn't do it.
“It was a good season, but our goal definitely was going farther than just making the playoffs.”