SCOTCH PLAINS/FANWOOD — Two-way high school baseball players have become a rarity in today’s game, especially for a large school.
That doesn’t really matter to Scotch Plains-Fanwood’s Danny Wilkinson, however.
Wilkinson, a lefty ace with his arm and slugger in the middle of the order with his bat, did it all this week and helped carry the Raiders to a 2-0 start against the area’s best teams. For his dominance on the mound and at the plate, Wilkinson is this week’s Joint Motion Physical Therapy Athlete of the Week.
The junior is currently riding a 1.80 ERA with 17 strikeouts in two starts, in addition to hitting .571 (4-for-7) with three doubles. While his numbers are impressive for any level, they should be magnified given the competition.
"Danny has been a key member of the varsity team these last two years. But this year his stuff has improved by leaps and bounds. Couple that with his toughness and he's a coach's dream," said Joe Higgins, Raiders varsity head coach.
"Since his freshman year he's been put through the ringer, pitching against the best teams-all the tough teams in our division plus St. Joe's, Bridgewater, Hunterdon Central," Higgins added. "It seems like the tougher the opponent, the more stressful the situation, the better he is."
Both of the Raiders’ games this year have come against Cranford and Gov. Livingston, both perennial powerhouses stacked with Division I and even draftable players. Wilkinson started each game and stymied both teams’ potent lineups, while showing pop and hitting in the clutch.
On Opening Day against Cranford, Wilkinson tossed five innings of scoreless baseball, striking out nine while scattering just four hits and walking three. Among other impressive feats, he escaped a bases loaded, no out situation unscathed, and would later contribute with two doubles at the plate. Though he ultimately received a no-decision, the Raiders went on to win, 4-3, in eight innings.
Snow that blanketed most of the state and wiped out games early this week allowed Wilkinson enough rest to come back and pitch on Thursday in the Raiders’ second game, and while the task was no easier, his results weren’t much different.
With his sizzling fastball and devastating curve, the southpaw mowed through a Gov. Livingston lineup that features five hitters committed to baseball factories such as North Carolina, Georgia Tech, and Iona. Receiving his first win of the year, Wilkinson allowed three earned runs in 6 2/3 innings, striking out eight and walking just two. His bat played a big factor in the Raiders’ comeback 6-5 win, too, as he went 2-for-3 with a double, hit-by-pitch, and run scored through courtesy runner Matt Zucker.
Wilkinson’s dominance on the mound is no surprise, seeing as he’s been a mainstay rotation pitcher since his freshman year. His emergence at the plate, however, looks even more impressive given that he had only three career varsity hitting appearances before this year and not an official at-bat since 2016 (he walked in his only plate appearance last year).
Wilkinson’s hot start further stakes his claim as one of the state’s top hurlers. In 79 2/3 career innings, he has seven wins with a 1.58 ERA and strikes out an average of over a batter per inning (85 total Ks).
Though, given the state’s pitch count rule, Wilkinson can’t pitch for the Raiders this weekend, but he will look to stay hot with the plate.
Joint Motion Physical Therapy is located across the street from the Stage House Tavern and shares a free, handicap accessible parking lot with the Scotch Plains Public Library. Joint Motion can be reached for an appointment by phone 908-322-3202, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also learn more at www.facebook.com/JointMotionPT.
Joint Motion Physical Therapy
373 Park Ave.
Scotch Plains, NJ 07076