BRIDGEWATER, NJ - The Bridgewater-Raritan baseball team took a three-game winning streak and plenty of momentum into its game against Scotch Plains-Fanwood on Wednesday.
But the Panthers were facing one of the best left-handed pitchers in the entire state in Danny Wilkinson, who had struck out 20 batters in a game six days earlier. And when they fell behind, 3-0, in the second inning, their task looked steep indeed.
Bridgewater-Raritan (4-5), however, scrapped back to not only tie the game up with three runs in the third inning, but the Panthers also knocked the highly touted junior out of the game after he'd thrown 82 pitches in just three frames.
But BRHS could do little against SPF righty reliever Matt Kipp, who threw four innings of one-hit ball to make Scotch Plains' go-ahead run in the fifth inning stand up for a 4-3 victory over Bridgewater-Raritan.
Junior right-hander Greg Verano was the hard-luck losing pitcher for Bridgewater-Raritan. A year after beating SPF with a scintillating seven-inning effort as a 10th-grader, Verano again went seven innings against the Raiders on Wednesday, striking out seven, walking two and scattering six hits.
And while the Panthers didn't exactly make a lot of solid contact against Wilkinson, what they did do was put together productive and lengthy at bats and make him work very hard, batter after batter. Cal Henderson, who had reached on an infield hit his first time up, drew a bases-loaded walk in the third inning to bring BRHS within 3-1. Then Andrew Grasso chopped a slow ground ball that died between home plate and third base for an infield single that cut the margin to 3-2.
When David Olsakowski's comebacker to the mound was bobbled by Wilkinson, the tying run crossed the plate as Olsakowski reached first safely.
But Bridgewater-Raritan managed just one hit and two baserunners the rest of the way after Kipp, a senior, took over on the mound. Scotch Plains-Fanwood (7-3) went ahead, 4-3, in the fifth on Patrick Downey's sacrifice fly, but Bridgewater right fielder Jake Olson made a spectacular diving catch on the play to rob Downey of a single or possibly a double.