The Wingnuts’ most unlikely All-Star has had a season full of improbabilities.
Jason Van Skike is tied for the team lead in wins with seven, and he has spent half the season in Wichita’s bullpen. That’s where he won his first three games, an unlikelihood in itself since relievers don’t often factor into the decision.
Since joining the rotation full-time on June 25, Van Skike has won four of five starts, and he allowed two runs in six innings during his only loss. His win total and his 2.57 ERA, tops among Wingnuts with at least 50 innings, suggest Van Skike is more of an ace than someone to fill the fringe role he had to begin the season.
Ineffectiveness by left-hander Alan Williams prompted him to switch roles with Van Skike, who was producing as a reliever but wasn’t making the same impact he has made over the last three-plus weeks.
“This is the first time since college that I’m a more permanent starter now,” Van Skike said.
The 25-year-old Van Skike, a 6-foot-4, 195-pound right-hander, has set a career high in wins in his fourth professional season because he has earned a prolonged opportunity in the rotation.
After pitching at Indiana State, where he threw a no-hitter in 2011, spent his first two seasons exclusively as a reliever in the Chicago White Sox organization. In 2013, his third straight year in Class A, Van Skike shuttled between the rotation and the bullpen, starting nine games and finishing six among his 31 appearances.
Long relief is a luxury position at the independent level, where roster limitations often force shorter bullpens, but Van Skike was inserted into that role to start his first Wingnuts campaign.
Van Skike’s success and versatility as a reliever – he pitched more than one inning four times and allowed zero runs in 8 of 11 appearances – indicated he might be just as effective with more time to establish a rhythm.
And that is what has happened, as Van Skike has allowed seven runs in his last 32 2/3 innings for a 1.93 ERA.
His selection as an American Association All-Star by Wichita manager Kevin Hooper wasn’t a reward for overcoming odds; Hooper enlisted help from other Wingnuts personnel by showing them statistics without names attached, and Van Skike’s matched up well enough for his inclusion.
“I’ve (started) before, so it’s a little familiar for me,” Van Skike said. “It’s been a few years, but I think I’m ready for it. My pitch count is up now, and I’m pretty comfortable with it.”
Rained out — The final game of the Wingnuts’ series at Grand Prairie was rained out Thursday. No makeup date was announced.
AirHogs 5, Wingnuts 4
|Khoury ss||5||1||2||0||Mojica ss||3||2||1||0|
|McClndn 3b||4||0||2||0||Nunez 2b||3||0||1||0|
|Kahaullo 2b||4||2||1||0||Nieves 3b||4||1||3||1|
|Clevlen cf||5||1||2||2||Botts 1b||3||1||2||2|
|Testa lf||4||0||0||0||Myrow lf||3||0||1||1|
|McMurray c||4||0||0||0||Carter rf||3||0||0||1|
|Oldham dh||2||0||1||1||CiFazio c||4||0||1||0|
|Whyte 1b||3||0||0||0||Abeita dh||4||0||0||0|
|Amberson rf||4||0||0||0||Baker cf||3||0||0||0|
E— Mojica (6), Harris (2). DP— Wichita 1. LOB— Wichita 9, Grand Prairie 10. 2B— Clevlen (23), Mojica (16), Nieves (11), Myrow (5). SB — Kahaulelio (11), Nieves (1), Carter (1). CS — Kahaulelio, Mojica. S — Nunez. SF — Nunez, Myrow.
|Harris W,2-2||1 2/3||2||0||0||1||2|
HBP — by Link (Mojica), by Wilkerson (Kahaulelio).
T— 3:12. A— 501.