11/26/2013 11:41 AM -
Whiting, Ind. – November 26, 2013 – The Northwest Indiana Oilmen have signed Michigan State right-handed pitcher Zak Wilkerson for the 2014 season. Wilkerson has made his way back from a torn ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) in his elbow that cost him his sophomore season.
Rather than undergoing Tommy John surgery, Wilkerson elected to use a platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injection to treat his UCL.
“Looking back at it now, I think it was a good decision,” Wilkerson said. “I think avoiding surgery is always the best option. It’s been tough, mentally and physically, but I’m good to go now.”
Michigan State coach Jake Boss expected Wilkerson to be a weekend starter during his freshman season. Boss is excited to see what he can do as he returns to health.
“It’s kind of starting over for him just because of his injury,” Boss said. “We’re excited to see him get back out there and watch him start to throw strikes. That’s something that is going to be exciting for us. It’s almost like starting over. He’s worked really hard to get back to this point.”
Wilkerson has spent significant time in the weight room, gaining 20-25 pounds since joining the Spartans. Playing for the Oilmen will present him with the opportunity to log some additional innings after a long layoff entering the 2014 season.
“I know the location is pretty close to the water, which I’m a fan of,” Wilkerson said. “I’m looking forward to getting down there and meeting new guys. I think that the best part about summer ball is meeting new people and getting a chance to maybe play them in the school season.”
Wilkerson would like to develop a dominant changeup to go along with his fastball and slider. He focuses on hitting his spots and getting a lot of movement on his pitches. He compiled a 2.38 earned run average in 11.1 innings of work as a freshman in 2011, contributing to the Big Ten Champion Michigan State squad.
In addition to being a standout on the diamond, Wilkerson was the quarterback of the Forest Hills Eastern High School football team.
“Zak is a kid who is the embodiment of a student-athlete,” Boss said. “He’s a kid that represents our program and our university extremely well both on and off the field. He’s an extremely hard worker. We’re looking for him to do some big things for us this spring.”