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. 

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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.