NAPERVILLE — Former Carmel lefty Matt Skarzynski wasn’t having his best day on the mound when he started against the Fox Valley-based Express Baseball 18U travel program last week.
But Kenosha Indians 18U coach Clay Kovac let him work through his early struggles.
“Matt’s the kind of kid who has great mental makeup,” Kovac said. “He won’t let too much, if anything, bother him out there.”
Trailing 3-1 after two innings, Skarzynski (4 IP, 4 H, 4 BB, 4 K) refused to fold. He battled through the next two innings and held the Express scoreless — despite having command issues with his breaking pitches at times — to pick up the win.
His command was there when he needed it most in the top of the fourth. Persistent tries at working the outside corner against the final batter he faced helped him induce a huge inning-ending groundout.
“In summer ball, one of my biggest goals is definitely to try and throw more strikes,” Skarzynski said. “This is a great time for me to shore up my offspeed pitches, too.”
He has a teacher with a proven track record helping him. Kovac pitched for both Michigan State and Indiana State, appearing in a combined 60 games. He also was a two-time all-state selection as a pitcher at Mundelein, and once as a third baseman.
This spring, the Mustangs set a school record with 35 wins under Kovac’s watch as Mundelein’s pitching coach. That included a sparkling 1.13 team ERA, and a Class 4A sectional title.
“Once Matt gets a little more work in this summer, he’ll be fine,” Kovac said. “He knows how to attack the strike zone and knows how to work hitters. He’s a guy (6-foot-1, 180 pounds) who has a huge upside.”
Skarzynski’s versatility has also been important to his Kenosha summer team. On the mound, he throws a fastball, curve, change and even a splitter. But there’s more to his game.
“He gives us another outfield position player in right field,” Kovac said. “He’s gotten a lot better going back on balls and line drives that initially seem headed over his head. And at the plate, he’s a threat to bunt at all times. Matt’s also a lefty bat in our lineup who hardly ever strikes out.”
Skarzynski plans to pitch for Division II Wisconsin-Parkside as a freshman this fall on a partial scholarship.
“Matt’s a heck of a pitcher and I know there were a lot of other eyes on him this season, and still probably are,” said Mundelein senior-to-be Luke Peterson, who led the Mustangs with 36 RBI in 2014.
Though Peterson (Mundelein) and Skarzynski (Carmel) played for separate schools in the same town in the spring, there’s no summertime rivalry when they play for the Indians’ travel program.
“Playing for both teams is a lot of fun,” Skarzynski said. “But I actually would’ve gone to Mundelein if I didn’t go to Carmel, so I already kind of knew these guys. There a lot of fun and all know what it takes to win. That just makes my summer experience better.”