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Prototypical leadoff: Skabo combines speed, quickness to wreak havoc around basepaths

Press Photo by Royal McGregor Dickinson senior Dylan Skabo, left, slides into third base against Bismarck St. Mary’s during a West Region Tournament game on May 22 at Southside Municipal Ballpark and Astoria Field.

Dickinson senior shortstop Dylan Skabo knows he can bunt for a hit.

His teammates know it.

And a majority of the time, the opposition knows it.

Skabo, the Midgets’ leadoff hitter, has the speed and quickness to get on base and find himself at third base with a pair of steals.

“I’ve told him before, ‘Even when they know you are going to bunt, you can still beat it out because you are so fast,’” Dickinson head coach Pete Dobitz said. “It puts a lot of pressure on opposing team’s defense. “

The Dickinson senior leads his team with 31 stolen bases — a school record. Dobitz said Skabo has the green light to steal whether he’s on first or second.

In fact, Dobitz admitted he has only given Skabo the steal sign five times. Skabo said he carefully watches the opposing pitchers.

“It’s pretty good feeling to have a record,” Skabo said with a smile. “Pitchers, especially at the high school level, have a rhythm and I rely on myself to pick that rhythm up and my teammates to pick that rhythm up too. Dylan Wallner (who has 11 stolen bases) is really good at picking up and then we relay it to each other and that just helps us steal some bases.”

Skabo and the rest of the Dickinson High baseball team enters the North Dakota Class A state baseball tournament as the No. 3 seed from the West. The Midgets play No. 2-seeded Fargo North at 12:30 p.m. today at Veteran’s Memorial Ballpark in Mandan.

The Midgets closed out the regular season and West Region Tournament with a 23-5 record.

“Our group has been playing together forever and we always wanted that state title,” said Skabo, who is committed to playing baseball and football at Dickinson State. “That’s always been our hope going into the baseball season. This season is no different.”

On the season, Skabo has a .368 batting average with four doubles, one triple, 13 RBI and a team-high 30 runs scored.

Dickinson junior third baseman and pitcher Luke Herauf said Skabo sets the tone for any inning.

“His on-base percentage is right at .500,” Herauf said. “Once he gets on, then we got (Michael McChesney) and then we got the Nos. 3, 4 and 5 hitters.”

Not only do Skabo and Herauf hit Nos. 1 and 3 in batting order, the two also watch over the left side of the infield.

Skabo is a three-year starter. He has played one year at second base — during his sophomore year — and has spent the past two seasons at shortstop.

“When the ball is hit to Skabo, I know he’s going to make the play,” Herauf said. “I’ve played with him on the left side of the field since I was probably like eight years old. It’s going to suck after this year, because he won’t be there anymore. I’m going to miss him.”

Though Skabo isn’t always the vocal leader, he wants to lead by example.

“They just have to come to practice every day ready to work hard,” he said. “I just come to practice, work hard and do whatever the coaches ask of me.”

Dobitz said one player who has spent time under his tutelage is freshman starting second baseman Lucas Jones.

“Because of his quickness, he has the ability to play a lot of different positions,” Dobitz said. “Because of his leadership, that’s why he plays shortstop. He’s given us everything we’ve ever asked of him and he passes it on to the young kids.”

Not only do Dobitz and Skabo share the relationship as a coach and player, but Dobitz is Skabo’s uncle.

Dobitz said there’s never been any special treatment for Skabo. Though he did say, it will be tough to see him go after the season is over.

“He’s treated just like another one of the guys,” Dobitz said. “He’s adapted to that. I’ve adapted to that. It’s been four years. It’s going one of those things — when it does end — it’s going to be kind of rough. The nice thing is that he’s going to play in Dickinson, so I’ll still get to see him play.”

Skabo said he doesn’t want any special treatment. He wants to earn everything he receives.

“He doesn’t every single me out because we are related,” he said. “Everybody on the field knows he doesn’t treat me special. I’ve had to work hard for everything I’ve been given.”