Skipjacks baseball is back
You can hear it in Chesapeake College baseball coach Frank Szymanski’s usually subdued voice. He is full of glee about the current season.
The Skipjacks are playing baseball again after the 2020 campaign was cut short because of the pandemic. They were nationally ranked and boasted a 9-2 record.
Szymanski, who is in his 21st season, wasn’t sure that this season was going to happen until he got the go-ahead to start practicing in mid-February
“It’s very special,” Szymanski said of returning to the diamond. “It feels really different and incredible. We are very excited to be playing and very grateful that our administration gave us this opportunity.”
Szymanski and his players faced some challenges on their way to the 2021 season.
The Skipjacks started practicing a month later than usual and they couldn’t play games against other schools last fall like they do every year. Things got scaled down to inter-squad scrimmages and practices.
This spring, players and fans have must wear masks at games and no one -- including umpires, coaches and players -- is allowed to use the locker rooms.
“We follow the college and CDC guidelines very strictly,” Szymanski explained. “The three things I went over with the team is you have got to have common sense, discipline and maturity. With those three things, we hope to be able to continue to play. We bring up last year and have to learn that nothing is guaranteed. It can be taken at any time.”
Chesapeake is playing just about as well as last year. The Skipjacks boast a 12-4 record, including a 10-1 record in the National Junior Athletic Association Region XX.
They seem to have all the ingredients for a highly successful season.
“We are strong all the way around,” Chesapeake right fielder Nick Newnam said. “If you look at our pitching, we have a bunch of guys that can give us innings and really take control of a game. Our hitting is really solid. You can pick guys one through nine out a hat for our lineup and there would be no difference. We are going to be really tough to beat.”
The Skipjacks’ well-armed pitching staff makes them tough to beat.
Right-handers Nick Gatton, Remington Mangum, Joe Simonetta and Daniel Leo comprise the starting rotation.
Leo, referred to as a Covid-freshman on the roster, has been dominating.
The graduate of Westfield High in Centerville, Virginia, is 3-0 with 30 strikeouts in 20 innings and a sparking 1.80 ERA.
“He keeps it very simple,” Newnam said. “He doesn’t walk a lot of guys. He just fills up the strike zone. I like his poise. You wouldn’t be able to tell if is throwing a perfect game or giving up 10 runs.”
Simonetta, who is a true freshman, also gives opposing teams fits. He’s 3-1 with a 2.04 ERA. Simonetta’s best outing came against Delaware Tech on March 30 in a 11-1 rout as he struck out six batters and yielded two hits and no earned runs in five innings.
“He throws a fastball, curveball and change-up,” Newnam said. “And he controls them all really well.”
When Szymanski goes to the bullpen, he turns to right-handers Angeles Pierpoint, Jake Metras and James Clark and left-handers Wilfredo Mendez Jr. and Devin McClendon to get key outs.
“A lot of guys are throwing strikes, changing speeds and working quickly,” Szymanski said. “That’s what we like about them.”
Newnam, a graduate of St. Michaels High, leads a potent lineup. He ranks first on the team in batting average (.500), RBIs (22) and stolen bases (16).
“He is off to a great start,” Szymanski said. “We bat him first or second. He is really hitting the ball hard and putting it in play. He is just an excellent hitter who works on his game a lot.”
The lineup also features Kyle Waters (.382 average, 9 RBIs, 7 stolen bases), Will Glick (.368, 9 RBIs, 2 home runs), Mitchell Jolikko (16 RBIs, 7 SB, 2 HR), Will Pope (.400) and Dylan Young (.484).
“We have been making solid contact and taking advantage of our opportunities,” Szymanski said. “We are having a lot of fun.”