Sikorski delivers in the clutch
Jimmy Sikorski goes down as a clutch and steady performer in the Staples baseball team's program. A captain before graduating in June, he was an All-FCIAC West Division selection the last two years and has made his presence felt on the mound, at the plate and in the infield. Next year, he will be pitching for Cornell University.
"My whole Staples career was great and I was fortunate to play with a great group of kids," Sikorski said.
He was an All-West selection as a pitcher junior year and as a utility player senior year. His determination drove him in leading Staples to a combined regular season record of 33-7 both years.
"In my six years as coach, no one has worked harder on being a great baseball player than Jimmy Sikorski," Wreckers Coach Jack McFarland said. "He worked tirelessly all 12 months working on his hitting, pitching and defense and in the weight room to make sure he had an edge on the competition. Jimmy is a self-made athlete who wants to be the best."
The righty Sikorski was masterful on the mound junior year as the team's No. 2 pitcher. He was 5-2 with a 1.72 ERA in 44 2/3 innings of work with nine walks and 42 strikeouts. Moreover, he was the winning pitcher with no earned runs allowed in Staples' 5-3 victory over Westhill in the 2009 FCIAC championship game.
"It was my first year on varsity and I wanted to put my best foot forward and show what I can do," he said. "Coach McFarland had trust in me and I was able to show what I can do."
Lady luck didn't smile on Sikorski senior year. He had tendonitis in his right elbow, which affected his motion on the mound.
"It wasn't a really serious injury and I was able to battle through it," Sikorski said. "Emotionally, it was tough because I expected a lot senior year and I was disappointed I could not contribute as much as I wanted to."
At the tail end of the season, McFarland inserted him at third base when he didn't pitch and batted .462. He was also solid defensively but playing in the infield isn't unfamiliar terrain for him. Junior year, he saw time in the infield when he didn't pitch as well.
"I felt good playing in the infield," Sikorski said. "I didn't hold anything back and I like to think of myself as a baseball player and not just as a pitcher."
When healthy, he's a top pitcher, which is why Cornell is welcoming Sikorski with open arms. He considers his best pitch to be a changeup and likes to mix in a fastball and curveball to broaden his repertoire and keep opposing batters off-balance.
"Ever since I was a little kid, I was focused on mechanics and I never got obsessed with my velocity and I always tried to throw strikes," he said. "I really like to get ahead of the batter. When you get ahead in the count, you can mix up your pitches a lot more."
In the field, he has range and rarely makes an error. He also likes to get his uniform dirty and he'll do whatever it takes to get to the ball and make the play.
"Practice helped me become a solid infielder," Sikorski said. "A lot of kids don't work on fielding and they are offensive minded. I want to be a complete player and I work on fielding ground balls."
At the plate, Sikorski's a tough out and led Westport's Senior American Legion team in hitting with a .333 average.
"It takes a lot of hard work and batting practice," he said. "I think of myself as an aggressive hitter and I attack early in the count."
He was one of the legion team's top players and was instrumental in leading Westport to its late-season surge.
"Jimmy led by example, played a flawless shortstop and always was willing to make adjustments and constantly improved throughout the season," Westport Legion Coach Glenn Katz said. "He shows up early to games and practices and is exactly what a coach is looking for in a player and solid teammate."
Sikorski always hustles and makes his opponents think. He's deft in getting the outs while in the field and is a lethal base runner, swiping many bases and taking the extra base when a teammate delivers a hit.
"I want to put my best effort forward and I try to slide to the ball and when I'm on base, I try to put pressure on the pitcher," he said.
Life on the diamond began for him in kindergarten when his dad, who was an athlete in his youth, signed him up to play t-ball. He loved it ever since and continued to flourish on the diamond.
Leadership is another strength of his as he served as captain with three classmates. He led by example through his work ethic.
"It was a great honor to be voted by my teammates and to lead the two-time defending FCIAC champions," he said.
Sikorski also led the team by coming up with the big plays in big games.
"Jimmy solidified his legacy in his junior year," McFarland said. "Every time he was given the ball in a big game he came up aces, including a complete game three-hitter against Westhill in the FCIAC Championship game. Jimmy was a great captain, watching Jimmy`s work ethic in practice and in the offseason is really something the younger players can learn from."
Academically, he took AP economics and AP statistics and many honors classes. Economics is his favorite subject.
"It has a lot to do with time management, especially during the season," Sikorski said. "You can't waste too much time and you have to hit the books."
At Cornell, he hopes to major in economics and follow with a career in finance or business. While at Cornell, Sikorski hopes to pitch the Red Raiders to victory.
"Jimmy is going to have a great career at Cornell," McFarland said. "He brings a lot of tools to the table, not just a great pitcher with tremendous poise, but also as a strong player who can swing the bat at a high level."
In order to succeed there, Sikorski knows he'll have to raise his game to the next level because the competition will be tougher.
"Hard work, dedication to practice and weight lifting will be the key to success there," he said.
Based on his performance at the plate, a case can be made for him to play in the infield or at designated hitter when he doesn't pitch. Because he's a team player, which enabled him to thrive at Staples, he's not concerned with not being able to hit.
"I was recruited as a pitcher but I see myself as a complete baseball player," Sikorski said. "Not hitting won't be tough because I was recruited as a pitcher and I'll do what they need me to do."