SCOTCH PLAINS/FANWOOD, NJ -- Danny Wilkinson saved an overworked pitching staff with his left arm, and then won a thrilling extra-inning game with his bat.
The junior left-hander struck out 20 batters while allowing just four hits and one walk in 7 2/3 innings in Scotch Plains-Fanwood's 1-0 baseball victory over Union in eight innings on Thursday.
"I'm speechless," said Raiders head coach Joe Higgins when asked about Wilkinson's performance after the game. "They've got a really good team over there, and their pitcher also pitched very well today. It's easily the best pitched game I've ever seen on this field.
But Wilkinson reached the mandated pitch limit of 110 while Union had a runner on second in the eighth inning with two out. Raider senior righty Matt Kipp was summoned, and he retired the next Union batter with one pitch on a pop fly to center to end the inning.
In the bottom of the eighth, Will Gale singled and Patrick Downey reached on an infield error before Wilkinson--still in the game as a hitter--came up with one out and sliced an opposite-field grounder through the left side. Gale scored just ahead of the throw home.
After Scotch Plains-Fanwood (4-3) had used all 10 of its pitchers in a comprehensive week that has seen the team play five games in a six-day stretch (including a nine-inning loss to Woodbridge on Wednesday), Wilkinson gave the team the mound innings it needed in a stirring pitching duel with Union junior righty Zach Fernandez.
Wilkinson, befuddling the Farmers with a sharp curve to go with his high-80s fastball, yielded just two hits. But Fernandez was throttling the SPF lineup, as well, scattering seven hits and walking none in 7 1/3 innings.
Gale and Wilkinson each had two hits against Fernandez.
The victory gave Scotch Plains-Fanwood a 4-1 record and a share of first place in the Watchung Division of the Union County Conference.
The Raiders next host crosstown rival Union Catholic on Saturday at 2:00 p.m. Union hosts ALJ (Clark, NJ) on Saturday.