HICKORY, N.C. – Clay High graduate and right hand pitcher Dane Dunning, now pitching for the Kannapolis Intimidators, the Class A affiliate in the Chicago White Sox minor league system, struck out …
HICKORY, N.C. – Clay High graduate and right hand pitcher Dane Dunning, now pitching for the Kannapolis Intimidators, the Class A affiliate in the Chicago White Sox minor league system, struck out 13 batters, the most by an Intimidators pitcher in four seasons, but Kannapolis could not back him up offensively in a 2-1 loss to the Crawdads in 12 innings on Thursday at L.P. Frans Stadium in Hickory. Kannapolis (1-7) managed 10 hits on the night with seven of them coming through the first five innings.
In the bottom of the 12th, Intimidator hitter Anderson Tejeda was hit by a pitch, and two batters later, Jose Almonte lined a ball to right field that Tyler Sullivan could not catch on a dive. The ball rolled all the way to the wall, allowing Tejeda to score the winning run. Kyle Kubat (0-1) took the loss while Crawdads outfielder Travis Bolin (1-0) earned the win.
Kannapolis threatened to jump ahead early, loading the bases with one out in the top of the first inning, but the Crawdads turned a double-play to end the inning.
The teams traded runs in the second inning. Tyler Sullivan dropped a base hit into shallow left field, scoring Zach Remillard for a Kannapolis lead, 1-0, but the Crawdads knotted the game when a Dunning throwing error on a pickoff attempt allowed Ti’Quan Forbes to score from third base.
Dunning, the White Sox No. 11 prospect this season, worked a career-high 8.0 innings while totaling a bakers dozen of strikeouts. He allowed an unearned run on two hits with no walks in his second outing at the Class A level. Mike Morrison pitched 2.0 scoreless innings for Kannapolis, striking out four and working around one hit.
With his career-high 13 batters, allowing an unearned run on three hits over eight innings in the Intimidators’ 2-1 loss to the Hickory Crawdads in 12 innings, Dunning sports a 0.64 ERA with 21 strikeouts in 14 innings this season. In the South Atlantic League, Dunning has the top ERA with his 0.64.
Dunning’s eight-inning performance Thursday followed a six-inning effort in his season debut last week against Lakewood. Both were longer outings than all but one of the starts he made between the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League and Class A Short Season Auburn last season.
“I really just got in the zone and was doing what I could to help out the team,” said Dunning, now 22, via telephone Friday morning in North Carolina. “I’m just waking up and will head to the field to workout. I don’t pitch for another five days.”
The last Intimidators pitcher to record at least 13 strikeouts in a game came May 24, 2013, when Jake Cose tallied 13 against the Crawdads in Hickory.
Dunning said he stays away from thinking about the records and even did not know he was mentioned in a recent Sports Illustrated Major League Baseball preview issue.
“I have no clue about where I stand as far as going up to the Majors,” said Dunning. “It’s all about timing and other guys maybe getting traded or retiring or any number of things. I just keep working hard, improving my pitching and let that show what I can do.”
As far as his pitching skills, Dunning commented that his control with his fastball; now clocking in at an average of 90-94 miles per hour, is getting better each day.
“My slider is still good and I can move the ball around the corners pretty consistently,” said Dunning. “The guys at this level are much better hitters as they all are as you go up the different leagues toward the Majors. The key is to keep the speed and keep the batters off balance. I have to keep improving until I get the shot.”
Dunning said his speed was around 88-90 at Clay then up a bit at the University of Florida to between 95-98.
Dunning also commented that he missed taking a shot in the batter’s box, but he understood the reason for not getting a shot to hit the ball.
“We have guys training to hit and guys training to pitch, “ said Dunning. “Everyone had a specific role. I do miss hitting the ball though. It was fun at Clay to get big hits.”
Kannapolis plays in the South Atlantic League Northen division against teams named the Greensboro Grasshoppers (Miami), the Hagerstown Suns (Washington), Hickory Crawdads (Texas), Lakewood BlueClaws (Philadelphia), Delmarva Shorebirds (Baltimore) and West Virginia Power (Pittsburgh).
Dunning, drafted 29th out of Florida in 2016 by the Washington Nationals, came to Kannapolis after pitching in 2016 for the Auburndale Doubledays in the New York-Penn League and earning a 3-2 record with a 2.14 ERA and 29 strikeouts. With the Gulf Coast League Nationals, Dunning pitching just two innings of Rookie League.
Dunning’s older brother, Jake, is also in the Major League Baseball farm system with the Charlotte Knights, also a Chicago White Sox affiliate. On the Knights website, Jake Dunning is listed on the disabled 7-day list. Jake Dunning, 29 and also a right hand pitcher, was a 2009 draft choice of the San Francisco Giants in round 33. Jake Dunning currently holds a 22-16 Minor League pitching record and 0-2 for the Major Leagues with the Giants. Dunning pitched in 2013 and 2014 for the Giants. He has 371 strikeouts in minor league play and 16 in the Majors.
One other Clay High graduate in the Majors, outfielder Drew Weeks, is currently playing for the Hartford Yard Goats (3-5) in the Eastern League has played in eight games with a .263 batting average on 1153 at bats. Weeks has 17 minor league homers in three years with a season-high eight dingers last year with the Modesto Nuts in California. Weeks was drafted in round seven in 2014 by the Colorado Rockies out of the University of North Florida. In his last 10 games at Hartford, Weeks is hitting .214 with five runs batted in.
Wes Weeks, Drew’s younger brother, is currently playing at UNF (24-13) and sports a .263 batting average with 16 RBIs off 31 hits. Weeks had his first homer of the season in March against Dallas Baptist and a second in game three of the same series.
In a Saturday Atlantic Sun conference match against New Jersey Institute of Technology (3-26), Wes Weeks had three hits on the day; one a double and scored a run. Week’s first at-bat resulted in a base after being hit with a pitch. North Florida won 6-3 after taking the first two of the three-game series 13-8 and 16-1. Weeks hit a double and had one RBI in game one then had three hits and two runs in the second game.
For Weeks, the jump to baseball at the North Florida level as been more learning situational baseball.
“Coach Smoke Lavelle is a great guy and wants us to learn the game of baseball more than just going and hitting and catching baseballs,” said Weeks. “He likes ground balls more than fly balls because one of his favorite things he says is he’s never seen a fly ball take a bad hop. His strategy with ground balls is to get on base and score from that.”
Against NJIT, Weeks imitated a favorite pre-at-bat ritual of brother Drew by taking a moment and staring at his bat before stepping into the batter’s box.
“It really is to get a focal point on the bat,” said Wes Weeks. “Drew and I talk a lot and he has taught me some things to keep my mind right for the game.”
As for future aspirations and the possibility of joining his brother in the Majors, Wes Weeks said it’s a plan set at a higher level.
“God has a plan for all of us and if baseball is in mine, then so be it,” said Weeks. “For that, I’m just working hard to get better each day.”
Weeks has been in a battle with freshman Tanner Murphy, out of BartramTrail High School, for playing time in the outfield and has gotten the nod lately.
“Everyone is so good at this level, but I always expect to compete for a starter’s shot,” said Weeks. “I’m a competitor just like everyone else and it is a matter of desire to keep improving.”
Weeks still maintains his outstanding footspeed on the basepaths, as was evident during his football days at Clay High with numerous 80 yard breakaways during his state finalist run with the Blue Devils.
“I’m still pretty fast and I try to use it wisely when I’m on base,” said Weeks.
The Ospreys continue their season with a trip to Gainesville to play the University of Florida before returning home to host University of South Florida and April 19 and A-Sun foe Florida Gulf Coast University on April 21. Gulf Coast will play a three-game series in Jacksonville with games on April 22 and 23.