PUNXSUTAWNEY — Punxsutawney's Tyler Skerkavich is moving from one successful baseball program to another, as the senior will attend Frederick Community College in Maryland to play for the Cougars, who were recently ranked the No. 1 National Junior College Athletic Association Division II school in the nation.
The Cougars, who finished the season with a 43-7 record and a No. 10 ranking in the national poll, were ranked in the top 20 in the nation over the past 13 years. That includes five trips to the NJCAA Division II World Series and one trip to the national title game in 2002.
FCC head coach Rodney Bennett, who completed his ninth season with the team, has an overall record of 313-127 with two trips to the NJCAA Division II World Series.
Skerkavich, who was recruited as the Cougars' first baseman, was part of Punxsy's last three District IX Class AAA Championships. The Chucks are in search of their eighth consecutive district crown this season.
Skerkavich and his parents Dave and Ann Skerkavich said that hitting instructor Jim Dunlap, owner and operator of the former JD's Diamond Training in Punxsutawney, played an intrical role in helping Skerkavich come in contact with FCC.
"Jim was all about helping Tyler. He was excited and loves working with young people, "Ann Skerkavich said. "Tyler and Jim hit it off, just like that. He's been very good for him. He's been a mentor for him, too, for baseball."
Skerkavich went to Dunlap last summer and practiced with him at least twice a week during the summer months.
"He just had a few mechanics that he needed to straighten out," Dunlap said. "Being such a good kid as he is and the way he listens and practices everything, it was very easy to work with Tyler."
A few weeks into the instruction, Dunlap asked Skerkavich about his post-high school plans. Skerkavich said that college baseball would be a focus, and Dunlap knew a team that would be a good fit for the first baseman.
Dunlap suggested Frederick Community College and Bennett, whom Dunlap knew through his son, Ara Dunlap. Bennett and Ara Dunlap went to Division II Davis & Elkins College in West Virginia together.
Upon Dunlap's suggestion, Skerkavich and his family took the trip to Frederick, Md., and Skerkavich said he liked the school, town and coach and signed. Skerkavich will also attend the school as a business major.
Through 15 games this season with the Chucks, Skerkavich is hitting .367 with a team-best three home runs and 20 RBIs. He is also tied for second-best on the team with 16 runs scored.
Skerkavich, who was the No. 2 hitter and starting first baseman on Punxsy's 16 & Under VFW Teener League State Championship team in 2009, is enthused about an opportunity to play with another perennial winner — this time at the national level.
"I'm excited," Skerkavich said. "It's going to be a fun adventure playing down there."