JACKSON TWP. Two important zeroes tell the story of Jackson’s first 17 games of the 2019 season. The first zero resides in the loss column of the Polar Bears’ league record as they seek to continue a run of Federal League dominance spanning the past decade.
The second zero is the the earned run average column for senior pitcher Yianni Skeriotis, who is turning in a masterpiece of a season to cap a career that already has several school records either to his credit or within reach. A 15-2 overall record for the team - and a 6-0 mark for its ace - include eight wins in eight league games, setting up a closing stretch loaded with importance for Jackson.
“We have two series left in the league against Perry and GlenOak, which has lost just once in the league, so we have a lot of competitive games in front of us that matter,” Gamble said. “What’s good for us is that we control own destiny.”
That control has proven beneficial for the Polar Bears in recent seasons and with Skeriotis often unhittable for opposing batters, toppling Jackson becomes an even more Sisyphean task for opponents.
The last Jackson pitcher with a 0.00 ERA for a season was Glen Richardson in 2016, but Skeriotis has surpassed Richardson in other categories, including career wins. The Ohio State recruit has 24 career wins entering this week and set the record in that category last season, meaning this spring he’s simply putting it further out of reach for future Jackson hurlers.
He recently surpassed 180 career strikeouts and hold the record there too, making it likely he’ll become the first pitcher in program history to top 200 strikeouts by the end of the season.
Twice he’s tied the single-season record for wins with nine and could break that mark this season. He’s done it throwing to a collection of catchers Gamble sees as the linchpin for the team, especially defensively.
“We’re very fortunate to have two solid catchers with Trey and Ben Hymes,” Gamble said. “They have both caught and Brandon Phillips has as well. Trey brings the most experience and he’s a four-year letterman for us.
Wright, a University of Toledo recruit, was a member of the 2016 state championship team as a role player, then played second base as a sophomore and started catching as a junior. He’s one of several versatile athletes on the roster who provide flexibility for the coaching staff when it comes to getting their best players on the field at a given time.
Gamble credited Wright, Skeriotis and pitching coach Dan Rodriguez with working well together in game planning and executing those plans against the top-notch foes that line the schedule this season.
“The thing that's very impressive about Yianni is that he’s doing it on Tuesdays against other teams’ number one pitchers when runs are hard to find,” Gamble said. “It’s huge credit to him and to our defense behind him. He’s on the same page with our pitching coach, Dan Rodriguez, and with Trey and Ben.
Regardless of who’s on the mound and who’s behind the plate, Jackson’s schedule hasn’t let up and with games against the likes of Hoban, St. Ignatius, Upper Arlington and other strong foes, the Polar Bears have already faced some elite arms and potent offenses that should prepare them well for the postseason.
Capturing a third state championship or even getting back to the state tournament - which will be just up the road at Canal Park in Akron this season - will require no small amount of heavy lifting. The Canton Division I district bracket is fraught with challengers, some of which Jackson has seen already in its league games.
Four Federal League teams have double-digit wins already, five of them have won four or more league games and Green, which stands in fifth place, boasts the third-highest overall win total (13). “We just have to do what we’ve done all season, which is play pressure baseball and execute. We’ve been doing that all year with the non-league schedule we have,” Gamble said. “Our motto in the program is, ‘May matters,’ and that’s when we want to play our best baseball.”
Keeping its zeroes intact won’t assure that Jackson reaches all of its goals for the season, but it would go a long way toward achieving several of them.
One other benefit of the dominance on the diamond is that it has helped push Jackson across the finish line for yet another Federal League All-Sports Trophy, with the school now creeping up on a decade-long chokehold on that honor. Add in the boys tennis team’s regular-season and league tournament titles and the boys track team’s undefeated league season and the numbers are squarely in the favor of the Polar Bears, who entered the spring season already with a solid league in the All-Sports standings.
Behind their record-setting senior standout and an on-point defense that has held up in seven games decided by two runs or fewer - including five one-run games in which Jackson is 4-1 - the Polar Bears’ diamond crew is doing their part to end the school year with a flourish.
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