KO’s Skolnicki garners Almanac MVP honors
A.J. Burnett’s arm. Starling Marte’s bat. Andrew McCutchen’s skill.
Jared Skolnicki possesses them all.
And like the Pirates, this senior has rejuvenated Keystone Oaks.
The Golden Eagles returned to the playoffs for the first time since 2004.
In fact, after sharing in a section banner, they finished third in the WPIAL and advanced all the way to the PIAA Class AAA semifinals for the first time in the program’s history. KO finished 20-6 overall this spring.
“Jared meant the world to this team,” said KO manager Scott Crimone.
“Obviously, his stats show how much.”
On the mound, Skolnicki rolled up an 11-1 record. In 76 innings, he struck out 111 and walked only 14 while maintaining a 0.28 ERA. Opposing teams batted .180 against him.
A centerfielder, when not on the mound, he fielded his position flawlessly, committing no errors. He recorded 23 putouts and racked up 21 assists.
At the plate, Skolnicki led the Golden Eagles with a .435 batting average, .481 on-base percentage and a .623 slugging average. He struck out only four times. Skolnicki drilled four doubles, tagged three triples and hit one homer. He drove in 10 and scored 16 runs.
On the baseball field, his strengths are almost endless says Cromine.
“Jared is a five-tool player. He hits for average, hits for power, runs like a deer, he will track down everything in the outfield and he clearly has the outstanding arm that he has used to compile an amazing record.”
Dubbed the best pitcher in the WPIAL by Cromine, Skolnicki throws between 82 to 86 miles-per-hour with a sharp breaking ball and an often devastating change-up.
However, his most astounding asset is his poise, adds Cromine. “Nothing phases him. Regardless of the situation, he remains calm, cool and connected on the mound and at the plate. He is truly just one of those special players that rarely come along.”
His spectacular senior season almost didn’t come along. Skolnicki missed his entire junior season due to a knee injury he suffered playing varsity basketball. Yet, Skolnicki heroically bounced back, even to the point that he earned the honor of captain of his club.
“He’s not the type that gets in someone’s face,” explained Cromine. “He truly leads by example. He gives his teammates confidence. With Jared leading the way, our players knew they had a chance in every single game we played.”
After falling to undefeated South Park in the district semifinals, the Golden Eagles knew they could comeback with Skolnicki at the helm. They beat West Allegheny for the right to participate in the state playoffs and in the first round of action, Skolnicki pitched a no-hitter and blanked Slippery Rock, 4-0. In the same week, he also silenced South Park, 3-0, handing those Eagles their first loss in the quarterfinals.
Off the baseball diamond, Skolnicki is a hit. In school, he maintained a 4.14 GPA and excelled in math enough to scored 780 on that portion of the SAT. In addition to Math Club, Skolnicki also belonged to the National Honor Society for three years.
“Jared is the prototypical All-American kid,” Cromine said. “He comes from an outstanding family. He is kind and sincere. He has a unique sense of humor and works harder than any player in my entire program.”
That work ethic, along with his play at KO as well as for the Steel City Wildcats, where he helped the team win the Western Pennsylvania Elite Baseball League, enabled him to attract collegiate attention. Skolnicki will major in economics and play at Kent State University.
And, the last Almanac baseball star to play there? Jimmy Rider. Last June, the Pirates drafted the former Peters Township standout.
“To talk about Major League Baseball some day sounds pretentious,” said Skolnicki, “but I’d say it’s a goal. It’s anybody’s goal that plays baseball.
I’m just worried about playing in college right now. After that we’ll just have to wait and see.”
Skolnicki doesn’t have to wait and see who is The Almanac’s MVP. He earned that title and considers it an honor.
“It truly is an honor because there are so many great players out there,” he said humbly.