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Skrocki Balboa: Spring-Ford junior outduels Phoenixville ace Cushing for 2-1 win

ROYERSFORD >> Last season, Jake Skrocki made minimal contributions to Spring-Ford’s Pioneer Athletic Conference championship run.

“I came up at the end of the playoffs, pinch-ran a little bit,” the junior said. “Otherwise, I really didn’t play varsity at all last year.”

Now this season, Skrocki has an entirely new role with the Rams.

The Spring-Ford right-hander went toe-to-toe with Phoenixville ace Kevin Cushing Monday night, his complete-game effort delivering the Rams to a 2-1 win in a key PAC divisional crossover matchup of first-place teams.

Phoenixville’s Kevin Cushing delivers to the plate against Spring-Ford. (Thomas Nash – Digital First Media)

“Jake wanted the ball tonight,” said Spring-Ford manager Jamie Scheck. “He has a lot of confidence; he’s not afraid to go at anybody.”

It showed.

Skrocki pitched all seven innings while limiting Phoenixville to just one run on two hits and a walk.

“The fastball, curve, change (changeup) were all working for me,” said Skrocki. “I was really just getting ahead of hitters in the count, then coming back with a curve ball to get them at the end. Getting ahead and locating my pitches has been the key all year for me.”

Spring-Ford pitcher Drew Skrocki (1) celebrates with catcher Brandon Ernst, left, after Monday’s win over Phoenixville. (Thomas Nash – Digital First Media)

With the result, Spring-Ford continues its unbeaten start to the year improving to 9-0 in the PAC (13-0 overall). Phoenixville suffers its first conference loss and drops to 8-1 in the PAC (9-2 overall).

Through the first three innings, Cushing and Skrocki were as good as advertised.

Skrocki carried a no-hitter into the fourth while Cushing had six strikeouts already to his credit.

That was when Spring-Ford finally broke through, though.

Phoenixville’s Justin Blakey (23) celebrates after scoring a run during the top of the sixth inning Monday. (Thomas Nash – Digital First Media)

With one out and the bases loaded in the bottom of the fourth, shortstop Andrew Huang landed an RBI-single to right field to break up the scoreless tie and make it 1-0.

Cushing was able to wiggle out of trouble and leave the bases loaded in the inning, but again found trouble in the fifth.

First baseman Hunter Curley opened up the inning with a single to left field, then eventually scored on Patrick Jucker’s two-out screaming triple to the gap in left-center to give the Rams a 2-0 lead. It was the third baseman’s fourth triple of the year and his seventh extra-base hit.

“Pat’s been doing that for us all year,” said Scheck. “He’s a kid we can really count on, especially when we need a big hit.”

Phoenixville shortstop Colton Brown (14) fires to Dylan Clark (35) at first base for a double play during the second inning of Monday’s game against Spring-Ford. (Thomas Nash – Digital First Media)

Phoenixville never went quietly into the night.

With one out in the top of the seventh inning, Justin Blakey pinch-ran for Will Trianosky, who had been hit by a pitch. After working his way to third base courtesy a single by Luke LeBeau and a fielder’s choice, Blakey came around to score on a passed ball with two outs to make it 2-1.

Skrocki would sit down the next four hitters without much trouble, ending it with his sixth strikeout of the night.

Although the Phantoms came out on the losing end, Phoenixville head coach Neil Herman took in all he needed to see.

Phoenixville’s Nick Opalkowski, right, slides in safe ahead of the tag during a pickoff attempt in the top of the third. (Thomas Nash – Digital First Media)

“You see a lot from a game like this,” he said. “You see the resolve, the heart and the fight.

“They proved something to me tonight — more than they’ve proved to me all year. All the wins coming into this game, this one here proved a lot more to me. These guys fought, scratched and clawed. And they had to believe — believe in themselves, believe in their teammates.”

For the game, Cushing scattered two runs (one earned) on five hits and a walk. The Cornell University commit, who has already got a no-hitter to his credit this year, fanned nine batters and struck out the side in the bottom of the first inning.

Spring-Ford second baseman Mark McNelly fires over to first base for a putout during Monday night’s game. (Thomas Nash – Digital First Media)

“Every time we get him on the mound, we’re confident,” said Herman of Cushing. “I honestly believe that this team is confident no matter who is on the mound. But the way he’s throwing this year, we know we only need a couple of runs and we’ve got a shot.

“Today wasn’t the case. Hats off to their pitcher because he threw a great game.”

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