Skolnicki's strong arm helping Keystone Oaks make history
Jared Skolnicki had several goals he wanted to achieve with the Keystone Oaks baseball team in 2013 – reaching the WPIAL playoffs and winning a section title were on top of the list, both of which the team achieved.
But making the PIAA Class AAA semifinals?
“Never would I have thought we would be one of the four last teams in Class AAA,” Skolnicki said. “My true goal was to win the section title. I really wanted to hang a 2013 on the banner. It has been an incredible ride.”
Keystone Oaks reached the semifinals with wins over Slippery Rock, 4-0, and South Park, 3-0. The win over Slippery Rock was a no-hitter for Skolnicki.
The win over South Park may have been even more impressive. His lone loss on the mound this season came to the Eagles, 1-0, in the WPIAL semifinals.
Skolnicki didn't allow history to repeat itself, striking out seven and handing the WPIAL champion its first loss of the season. But it was almost not to be. The senior pitched against Slippery Rock last week on Monday. Due to PIAA rules, a pitcher must wait three calendar days before he can pitch again, a rule that would've sidelined Skolnicki for a Thursday game against South Park.
But a postponement due to weather pushed the game to Friday and allowed Skolnicki to take the mound.
“Coach (Scott) Crimone told us after the first game not to hang our heads and we might get another shot at them,” Skolnicki said. “Taylor Lehman was scheduled to pitch and we had confidence in him. Then the rain came and I obviously could pitch. I wanted some personal revenge.”
Skolnicki's pitching has been a catalyst for the Golden Eagles postseason run. The senior has a .28 ERA and a 10-1 record on the mound. He has struck out 111 batters and has surrendered only 36 hits with four runs scored.
Keystone Oaks is 20-5 overall. It finished with an 8-2 mark in Section 3-AAA play, finishing in a first-place tie with Chartiers Valley. The Golden Eagles appearance in the PIAA tournament is a first in program history.
“It has been a really fun season in general,” Skolnicki said. “The amount of support we have been getting from the school, from the athletic director and from the fans is great. Everyone has been incredible. We have people driving two hours to see us play in the playoffs. Keystone Oaks really deserves a season like this.”
The senior's strong season was noted Sunday as he was part of the Class AAA squad at the 10th annual WPIAL Baseball Coaches Association all-star game. While he had to watch the game from the dugout due to Keystone Oaks still playing in the PIAA playoffs, Skolnicki said being named to the squad was an honor.
“I played against a lot of these guys in the regular season,” Skolnicki said. “They are all great players.”
Skolnicki will continue his playing career at Kent State next season. But before he takes the field with the Golden Flashes, he will play summer ball with the Steel City Wildcats of the WPEBL.
The WPEBL is a summer league that offers a chance for the top players in the area to play against other players looking to play at the collegiate level.
“I played with them my entire high school career,” Skolnicki said. “I will also be conditioning and getting ready for fall workouts at Kent State.”
Keystone Oaks played Upper Moreland in the PIAA semifinals earlier this week. Results were unavailable at press time.
Nathan Smith is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at email@example.com or 412-388-5813.