Pro Skills batter Nicholas Turnage waits for a pitch. He went 3-for-4 with two doubles.
By Will Harrigan
A quick look at the Pro Skills 17U Select roster immediately draws attention to those who know the New Jersey amateur baseball scene.
Its squad is composed of players from strong South Jersey high school programs with winning traditions, particularly Lenape, Cherokee, and Bishop Eustace amongst several others.
And so, unsurprisingly, Pro Skills Select had the makeup of a typical good South Jersey team: rock solid pitching and a deeper lineup its opponent could not keep pace with.
That was the story at Raritan Valley Community College on Wednesday morning, as Pro Skills walked away with a 10-2 victory over Long Island Titans– Lorusso in Super 17 Invitational action.
“We’ve had our ups and downs like any other team at this event, but it was a solid showing for us,” said Pro Skills coach Nicholas Speakman. “We preach putting pressure on the opponent at Pro Skills, and when you have every guy in your lineup score a run, that’s a pretty good job.”
Showcasing its depth in the top of the third, it was the bottom of the lineup that did the initial damage for Pro Skills (1-1-1) from the 9-10-11 holes.
Cherokee product Nicholas DeFord got the rally started by reaching on a booted ground ball by the Titans. His Chiefs teammate, Kyle Kolinsky, and Lenape’s Danny Sassaman set the table and juiced the bases for the top of the lineup.
Christian Ovecka of Bishop Eustace cashed in a batter later, as his deep pop up to center field allowed DeFord to come around and score.
A batter later, Haddonfield’s Nicholas Turnage roped a two-run double down the left field line to extend the lead to 3-0. Turnage had a monster day at the dish, going 3-for-4 with two doubles and two RBI.
Long Island Titans – an organization that brought five teams with them to Diamond Nation for the Super 17 Invitational Week Two event – put up a two-spot in the fourth to make things interesting.
Patrick McLaughlin led off the inning with a single for the island boys, and that was quickly followed by a double off the bat of James Coates to put two men in scoring position.
That set up T.J. Harrington to drive in his club’s first run, as his deep flyout to right field drove in McLaughlin to cut the deficit to 3-1. Two batters later, Matthew Guida would ground out to short to slice the Pro Skills lead in half at 3-2.
Other than that frame, Lenape’s Tommy Kohler had little issue with the Titans, as the hard-throwing righty fanned nine batters while only surrendering four hits on the afternoon. Three of Kohler’s innings went 1-2-3.
“Tommy’s our workhorse, and he kind of stuck to the basics today. He got ahead of counts and pounded the zone. Good things happen when you do that,” Speakman said.
Kohler’s RBI single in the sixth spearheaded a four run sixth inning for the winners. That base hit was sandwiched around a pair of catastrophic fielding errors for the Titans that directly led to three runs, allowing them to balloon their lead up to 7-2.
Turnage would single in an insurance run in the seventh, which also included a sacrifice fly off Chase Homan’s bat to run the Pro Skills’ final score line to 10-2.