Trib HSSN Baseball Player of the Week for April 12, 2021: Keystone Oaks’ Jake Slazinski
Monday, April 12, 2021 | 10:57 PM
Welcome to the Year of the Jake.
Last week, Jake Walker was the Trib HSSN Baseball Player of the Week.
This week, after a couple of big games in the section openers for Keystone Oaks, Jake Slazinski takes the honors.
“Jake’s strength is his versatility,” Keystone Oaks coach Nick Kamberis said. “He was the starting catcher for us two years ago and handled Sammy (Tortorella) and Mason (Brooks) well. This year, we can’t afford to catch him since we have to protect his arm. But he is so versatile, he can play infield or outfield as well as anyone we have. He is like having another coach out there. He really goes out of his way to mentor the younger players in practice.”
After losing to Chartiers Valley in their only nonsection game prior to last week, the Golden Eagles opened Section 2-3A play Tuesday at home against defending champion Steel Valley.
“Jake did it all for us right out of the gates on Tuesday,” Kamberis said. “He threw 100 pitches and hit a triple and a home run. But the true key to his success is his work ethic. He is a big weight-room guy with super strong legs. He can hang with most of the football guys in the dead lift. His success is no surprise to me because I see how hard he works day in and day out, even through covid.”
Slazinski, who is also a BMX racing champion, picked up the win in a 10-8 victory for Keystone Oaks over Steel Valley.
“Jake had 24 first-pitch strikes in 6⅔ innings,” Kamberis said. “When you do that, you will be effective at any level. Jake is a hard-nosed, gritty, super competitive kid. He goes right at you and lets his defense work for him. At 99 pitches, I started to call timeout to take him out. He told me, ‘I’m at 99 coach. Let me finish.’ I love that kind of mentality. We can win with that.”
Twenty-four hours later, the teams met at West Field in Munhall and the Golden Eagles flew to a 9-5 triumph over the Ironmen.
“Jake led the way again, this time as a DH so we could rest his arm,” Kamberis said. “These back-to-back section games are going to take more of a toll on the pitchers, more than people think. He collected three hits, including another triple and an inside-the-park home run while knocking in five runs. But most importantly, he is tutoring first-year catcher, Dylan Kickler. He’s working with him constantly, always in his ear between innings.”
Led by Slazinski’s big bat, the Keystone Oaks offense has been the key early on, averaging over eight runs per game. While that number will likely come down the more games KO plays, the fear that the senior Slazinski is causing opposing pitchers may not.
“He loves everything about hitting,” Kamberis said. “He is always working to perfect and refine his swing, always getting extra cage and tee work in. I, on the other hand, continue to try and get him to work on calming his swing down a bit. Reminding him that whether the ball goes 500 feet or 400 feet, it still counts the same. I remind him by saying, ‘I don’t need Godzilla here, just King Kong.’ It gets a little smile out of him.”
While the Golden Eagles are soaring right now, they play in a tough Section 2-3A with the likes of South Park, Avonworth and South Allegheny coming up on their section schedule. Those three teams are a combined 11-7 overall.
“I’m pleased where we are, but we have a lot of work to do,” Kamberis said. “One day, one game and one pitch at a time. Striving to get a little better each time we take the field, game or practice. Hopefully, if we keep our heads down and grind every day, we can look up at the end and be in a spot to make the playoffs.”
2021 Trib HSSN Baseball Players of the Week
Week 1 – Jake Walker, West Mifflin
Tags: Keystone Oaks
More Baseball• Created out of pandemic necessity, league plays ball for a 2nd summer
• Westmoreland notebook: WPIAL champs head to PNC Park; lacrosse players hit big stage
• North Allegheny catcher Aaron Posey commits to Division I Kennesaw State
• Traveling summer baseball teams keep Hampton players sharp
• Hampton grad Tyler Bischke picks New Orleans