Shawn Danielson was one of the top hurlers for the Minot Vistas American Legion baseball team last year, sporting an unblemished 6-0 record.
His success on the mound this season will hinge on how well he is able to pitch through pain. The Minot High graduate is dealing with what he said is a pinched nerve in his right throwing shoulder, an injury that limited him to two innings of work during his senior year with the Magicians. Danielson said it won't sideline him for the Legion season.
"You just gotta take your mind off of it and think more about the game," Danielson said. "When you start pitching, the adrenaline gets going and you don't think about it as much."
At 5-foot-9, 155 pounds, Danielson doesn't appear threatening on the mound to opposing hitters, but his slider is a different story.
"He's very deceptive," Minot coach Todd Larson said. "When you look at him he's small staturewise. Not a real physical-looking kid, but possesses a tremendous slider when he's healthy. He's certainly perfected that pitch for himself"
Danielson made his first start June 12 against Moorhead (Minn.) and has made three relief appearances. Moorhead got a good look at Danielson's slider as he struck out five in five innings of work. He suffered the loss, however, allowing nine runs - two earned - on five hits, walking four.
He has more than just a slider in his arsenal. He also possesses a fastball, curveball and changeup. Despite his small frame, Danielson has some speed behind his fastball.
"When looking at him you don't think he's a power pitcher, but he certainly is," Larson said. "His fastball is fast. It gets in on your hands."
Danielson has struggled a bit with his control thus far, walking nine in 10 innings. He issued three free bases in two-thirds of an inning against Grand Forks on June 8. Danielson is coming off a relief appearance where he allowed four runs on three hits without recording an out against Mandan on Thursday. It ballooned his ERA from 2.80 to 7.00.
Much like he does in the offseason, Danielson will continue to work on his pitching. With his attention squarely on baseball, Danielson has done what he can to improve, attending various pitching camps and working on his mechanics. His love for the game keeps him motivated.
"I always liked playing it growing up," Danielson said. "My dad played it growing up and kind of got us into it. I've pretty much played it since I was a little kid."
As long as Danielson's shoulder cooperates, the right-hander will continue to be part of the rotation.
"We're expecting him to pitch," Larson said. "We need him as a pitcher. We'll work on getting that thing mended or fixed or as healthy as it can be. Unless he tells us he's in a lot of pain, he's going to get out there and make his next start. He's a very important part of our pitching staff."
Mike Kraft covers the Minot Vistas and racing during the summer. Follow him on Twitter @MKraft24_MDN.