Tyler Skulina of Walsh Jesuit (Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio) has a couple of goals he would like to accomplish before he graduates this year and one of them is quite simple: He wants to be perfect.
In his four years of pitching for the Warrior varsity team, Skulina has yet to lose a game. That's 24 consecutive wins for a pitcher who was named the Division II state player of the year in Ohio. If he can stay perfect, that could lead to Skulina's second goal, a state championship.
"I want to win another state championship for my teammates and my school," said Skulina, who helped the Warriors win a state title in 2008. "I also want to stay undefeated as a high school pitcher. But our team winning the state championship in 2008 was my most memorable moment on the baseball field and I want to have that feeling again."
The Warriors were ranked No. 1 in the nation for several weeks before suffering a 5-4 loss to St. Edward (Lakewood, Ohio) in the seventh inning. The loss dropped Walsh Jesuit a few spots in the MaxPreps Xcellent 25 National Rankings sponsored by Milk, but the Warriors have been steadily climbing back toward the top. At 24-1, they're poised to challenge for that state title Skulina and his teammates have been striving for. Skulina feels that his team has just the talent to get the job done.
"We have solid hitting from top to bottom and a great pitching staff with three seniors, Johnny Fasola, Greg Greve and me, that can all top 90 (mph)," Skulina said.
Fasola, a shortstop, is headed to Kansas State while Greve, a third baseman and pitcher, will play at Ohio State. Infielders Ryan Berry (1B) and Marco Caponi (2B) will play at Dayton and Butler, respectively, next year. Skulina is also a big reason why the Warriors are in contention, as he is 4-0 on the season with a 1.15 ERA. Last year he was 9-0 with a 0.75 ERA and 84 strikeouts in 56 1/3 innings pitched. Walsh Jesuit coach Chris Kaczmar says that an impressive fastball has been a big reason behind Skulina's success.
"Last year during the state semifinal at Huntington Park, I looked up in the sixth inning at the scoreboard and the radar gun said 96 mph," said Kaczmar. "I'll have that image burned in my brain for my entire lifetime. I never thought it could happen with a player under my guidance, but he's amazing. He's been a dominant player for three years now."
Skulina reaped the rewards following last year's standout season. Besides being named as a MaxPreps Baseball Underclassman All-American, he was also the Gatorade State Player of the Year, the PUKKA Ohio Player of the Year, Ohio High School Magazine Player of the Year, Louisville Slugger/Collegiate Baseball First Team All-American, Akron Beacon Journal Player of the Year and the league player of the year.
"We have been careful with his pitch count, and as good as he has been for us, I truly believe that his best days lie ahead," said Kaczmar. "He has long arms, and he has powerful, strong legs. He's the most successful baseball player in the history of Walsh Jesuit High School."
Skulina doesn't let all of the awards and attention go to his head, however.
"He is extremely humble and kind at all times off the field," said Kaczmar. "He has a tremendous demeanor and an infectious smile. He wants the ball, and he is willing to do whatever it takes for the good of the team at all times."
Skulina also puts in plenty of work when he isn't pitching.
"My pitching coach tells me that the easiest day of the week is when I get on the mound for my start," he said. "That means I train hard every other day of the week in preparation. You can never be satisfied with what you did the year before because everyone else is trying to get better, too."
All of the pressure has helped him stay calm on the mound, especially in light of all the attention he has received from professional scouts.
"My strength is my composure on the mound," said Skulina, who has committed to play at Virginia next year. "I don't get nervous before I pitch, no matter how big the game is, and I stay composed no matter how good or bad things are going. I am also super competitive; I want to not only win every game, but win every individual battle against each hitter.
"I think it’s great that scouts are at the games, but I don’t really pay that much attention to them. Yeah, I see the radar guns and stuff, but once the game gets going I am focused on what I need to do. I don't get too caught up in the hype with getting drafted, though. My focus is to have fun and enjoy my senior year of high school baseball."