Dante Scafidi loves to pitch.
There’s nothing that gets the Gloucester Catholic High School senior more pumped up than taking the mound and battling with his teammates. He wants to perform in big games, and the Rams play their fair share.
As a freshman, Scafidi earned some innings and seemed to be on his way toward a successful high school career. But over the past two seasons, elbow injuries forced him to remain in the dugout and off the hill.
In his final year, the left-hander is fully healthy and eager to show his talents for South Jersey’s top-ranked team. He’s worked extremely hard to get back, something that certainly has not gone unnoticed.
“It’s definitely unbelievable,” he said. “I spent a lot of time supporting (teammates) and they supported me the whole time. It’s great to finally get back at it and support the team on the other side of the white lines.
“I’m definitely confident; I know what I’m capable of. I have the same confidence I’ve always had.”
Scafidi endured two surgeries to his left elbow over the past two years. He suffered a fracture to the olecranon, which is the tip of the elbow. It is right under the skin and not well protected by muscle or soft tissue.
“One morning I woke up, and it was swollen and cracked,” he said.
The first fracture caused him to miss his entire sophomore season.
The second fracture occurred during his first bullpen session prior to the start of last year, which led to another surgery two days later and another high school season washed away.
One could understand if he decided to call it quits. Why take a chance at possibly suffering a third injury? Maybe throwing a baseball just wasn’t his calling.
Scafidi never quit.
“Not one time did I see him pout through all of this,” Rucci said. “If the shoe was on my foot, I wouldn’t be able to go through that. It just showed his character and integrity as a young man.”
After six months of physical therapy, Scafidi started throwing again. First it was 20 pitches, then 30 and 40.
And throughout the process, Rutgers University didn’t give up on Scafidi as well. He had generated college interest prior to the first surgery, but Rutgers was the only school that stuck with him.
“A lot of schools dropped contact with me after the first surgery,” he said. “They stuck with me and saw me get back and strong again. After the second surgery, they were still there. They had a lot of faith in me, and that’s a big reason why I signed with them.”
Scafidi is 1-0 with eight strikeouts, having allowed just two hits and one earned run in nine innings this spring. He’s likely to get his third start Friday against Clayton in a Tri-County Conference Classic Division game.
As long as he’s healthy, Scafidi will get his opportunities.
“He’s faced a lot of adversity,” Rucci said. “To bounce back like that … His work ethic is off the charts. Two surgeries at 16 and 17 years old and still get a Division I scholarship is awesome, unheard of these days.
“He’s slowly coming along with his command. His secondary pitches — his breaking ball and change-up — are ridiculous. They are very, very good. He’s going to have to battle with his command because it’s a feel thing. He needs more innings, more time on the mound. But he’s a starter and we’ll run him out there every fourth, fifth day when we can.”
At this point, that’s all Scafidi wants.
“Words can’t describe how bad I want to be out there. A big game, I want to contribute,” he said. “There was a lot of support from the dugout, but now I want to support them from the mound.
“I have my arm again. That’s all I can ask for.”
Kevin Minnick: kminnick
com. Follow him on Twitter @cp_varsity