Vinnie Stigliano of NJ Nationals scores on single by Jordan Burwell.
By Sean Reilly
Sean Skikus doesn’t pitch that often for the New Jersey Nationals, and when he does, it’s usually in relief.
The right-hander made a rare start for his team on Monday, and it was a gem.
Skikus threw a six-inning complete game, allowing three hits, when the Nationals opened play at the Diamond Nation Super 16 Top 25 with an 8-1 win over Wladyka Baseball American in Flemington.
Skikus, a rising junior who plays for Caldwell High School, got the starting opportunity as part of an effort to spread out the team’s pitching over the course of the three-day tournament.
“I haven’t pitched a ton,” he said. “I usually come in relief, but we’re trying to save kids so I got the start today.”
The complete game was his first. He struck out five, including the last three batters he faced, with two walks as the Nationals, featuring players mostly from Seton Hall Prep, with a few others from Essex and Passaic counties, opened with a win.
The Nationals qualified for the Top 25 by virtue of a 3-0 showing at the Super 16 Invitational in June, which included a win over Wladyka American.
One of the two walks issued by Skikus came in the top of the first, but the man was erased on a pickoff throw to first baseman Jordan Burwell.
The Nationals then scored three times in the bottom of the frame for a 3-0 lead.
Vinnie Stigliano led off by reaching on an error, and he stole second. Michael Bravette walked on a full count, and, after a strikeout, Burwell, placed a single into right field to score Stigliano.
C.J. Georgiou was up next, and the rising senior from Passaic Valley High School crushed a two-run standup triple to center field.
Wladyka American, which began the tournament with an 8-5 win over the Stamford Bombers earlier in the day, scored an unearned run in the second.
Brendan Epstein led off and reached on an error. He advanced to second on a ground out, and scored when Jason Kuhn singled to left field.
Nick Aumenta of NJ Nationals reaches first ahead of the ball for an infield single.
The Nationals broke the game open with a four run fifth inning.
The first two batters, Stigliano and Bravette, drew walks before Kaden Frei dropped down a bunt single.
That sent up Burwell, a rising junior at Seton Hall Prep, in an ideal hitting spot.
“With bases loaded, no outs, I was trying to hit the ball hard,” he said.
Burwell did just that, by delivering a two-run single to center, and he took second on a throw to the plate.
Frei scored on a single to left field by Gavin Fochtman, and Liam Garrett hit a sacrifice fly to right field that brought in Burwell for a 7-1 lead.
The 1:50 time clock expired in the bottom of the sixth, after Bravette delivered a run-scoring single. It capped a game in which he went 1-for-2 with two walks and two runs.
Skikus, meanwhile, felt great after allowing just three base runners following the single by Kuhn in the second inning. One of those was erased on a double play.
“I was mostly pitching to contact, and my curveball was working good,” he said. “My fastball was also pretty good today.”
Going the distance was a bonus.
“It’s the first time I’ve done that,” Skikus said. “It feels awesome.”