By Tommy Keeler Jr.
FRONT ROYAL -- Michael Burrola didn't know what to expect coming into this season, but he definitely wasn't expecting to make such a big impact early in the year.
The Skyline sophomore pitcher had already pitched in two games, including getting his first save last week. On Wednesday night, he made his first varsity start and made the most of it.
Burrola threw a complete game five-hitter to lead the Hawks to an 8-1 win over Broadway in nondistrict baseball action.
"I was nervous at first," Burrola said of making his first start. "At first they were hitting me and I was like 'oh crap, they're going to hit me all day.' Then I saw the team was backing me up, and I got a little more confident."
Burrola didn't have much trouble throughout the entire game. He threw only 72 pitches. He also induced six groundouts in the first three innings.
"We're counting on him to have some success this year," Skyline coach Ben Taylor said. "He pounded the strike zone, really got a lot of ground balls, and that's what we wanted from him."
Both teams were scoreless through the first three innings. In the bottom of the fourth, the Hawks' offense finally came to life.
Skyline's Nick Helmick led off with an infield single off of Broadway starting pitcher Jake DePoy. Hunter Stewart followed with a single, and Sterling Jennings doubled to score Helmick. Jacob Sims then had a two-run single to give the Hawks a 3-0 lead.
Sims scored later in the inning on a throwing error for a 4-0 Skyline lead.
"Were looking for some consistency at the plate," Taylor said. "We were able to hit the ball and get key hits in key situations."
In the top of the sixth, Burrola faced his toughest situation on the mound. Broadway's Forrest Miller reached on an error, and Tristan Bailey followed with a single.
Miller was tagged out on his way to third on a ground ball by Brad Ritchie. Zane Hostetler then loaded the bases with a bunt single, which brought up the clean-up hitter for the Gobblers.
"I was scared, especially with the big guys coming up," Burrola said. "I thought 'OK they're going to rack me.' Then I just threw it in as fast as I could and trusted my backup."
Taylor said he also had complete trust in Burrola to get out of the jam.
Burrola hit Zane Hostetler with a pitch to put the Gobblers on the board. He bounced back with his first strikeout of the game, and a fielder's choice at second base ended the threat.
"I felt a lot of relief after that," Burrola said of his only strikeout of the game.
The Hawks (3-1) added four more runs in the bottom of the sixth. Chaz Rutherford had a two-run single, and Helmick had an RBI double to lead the way in the sixth.
Skyline was able to spread the hits around throughout the lineup. Dakota Smith and Helmick each had two hits to lead the way.
The Hawks lost at Broadway in their season opener, 9-2. Errors were costly in that game, but Skyline's defense was solid in Wednesday's meeting.
Taylor said he was pleased with the way his team played.
"You want to look for improvement from game to game and I think we saw that," Taylor said.
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or firstname.lastname@example.org