Golden Eagles looking for great ending KO advances in state baseball playoffs.

Published Jun 4, 2013 at 8:20 am (Updated Jun 4, 2013 at 8:20 am)

Great endings start with great beginnings. Just ask the members of the Keystone Oaks baseball team.

The day before the 2013 campaign commenced, the Golden Eagles met for dinner at Vincent’s in Green Tree. According to manager Scott Crimone, each player shared his personal and team goals. “Each player wanted to win the section, win the WPIAL and win states,” Crimone said.

So far, the Golden Eagles are 1-for-2. They claimed a section banner. By edging West Allegheny, 1-0, in the WPIAL Class AAA consolation contest at Washington and Jefferson College field, KO put itself in position to achieve a second objective. The Golden Eagles qualified for the PIAA state tournament for the first time in the program’s 48-year history.

“This club continues to add to its list of accomplishments and has just shattered all of the Keystone Oaks baseball team records this season,” exclaimed Crimone.

The Golden Eagles have compiled the best record in school history. They shared the section title with Chartiers Valley, a team KO defeated in the WPIAL quarterfinals. It was KO’s first banner sinced 2003 when the squad competed at the Class AA level. The Golden Eagles finished third out of 32 teams in the district and qualified for the PIAA tournament.

“I could not be more proud of these boys,” said Crimone. “They are 1-for-2 so far and have earned the opportunity to achieve a third goal. We will keep on working and applying our philosophy of hard work, discipline and respect.”

KO demonstrated those traits plus a dose of tenacity in defeating West Allegheny in the consolation contest. In the 1-0 triumph, Taylor Lehman scored from first base on Nick Riggle’s walk-off triple. A freshman, Riggle blasted the three-bagger over the center fielder’s head with a 2-2 count and two outs. Lehman had reach base on a walk.

Jared Skolnicki controlled the opposition’ bats. The senior went the distance, surrendering three hits, walking none and scattering five hits.

“Jared was dominant again,” said Crimone.

Meanwhile, Ryan Ribeau threw out the only two base runners who attempted to run on the senior catcher.

While KO garnered just two hits, the Eagles got the one hit that mattered for the walk-off, added Crimone.

KO kept up its progress as the Golden Eagles defeated Slippery Rock, 4-0, in the PIAA opener played at the Jerry Uht Stadium in Erie.

Skolinicki earned the win on the mound as KO improved to 19-5 overall. He tossed a no-hitter. Skolinicki struck out 11 batters and walked three.

“Jared was as dominant as usual despite struggling through the first inning due to a tightly called strike zone,” said Crimone. “Plus, the defense was spectacular behind him.”

Ben Canty certainly made the plays to preserve the no-hitter. The sophomore second baseman made three or four “dazzling plays,” said Crimone.

KO also “manufactured a few runs” on offense to support Skolnicki’s cause.

Ribeau drove in senior shortstop Ryan Rosato with a sacrifice fly in the first inning. Senior third baseman Brandon Gresh came up with a big hit in the fourth inning to score 2 runs and junior left fielder Walt Hepner hit a sacrifice fly in the sixth to bring home the fourth and final run. “It was a great team win led by just another outstanding and marvelous performance by the best pitcher in the WPIAL,” said Crimone of the victory, which set up a rematch with South Park on June 6 in the PIAA quarterfinals. KO lost, 1-0, to the Eagles in the WPIAL semifinals. South Park went on to win the district championship.

“We are eager and excited to see South Park again,” said Crimone. “They are an amazingly talented team and we look forward to another great battle against them.”

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