Chase Cunningham is still in complete command.
The former Tennessee High standout is 6-0 with a 2.49 ERA in 10 starts for the Washington (Pennsylvania) Wild Things and was the latest recipient of the Frontier League pitcher of the week award.
He earned that accolade after putting together two straight dominant starts.
Cunningham pitched eight shutout innings to beat the Traverse City Beach Bums on June 27 and then allowed just one run over seven innings of work on Sunday in a win over the Joliet Slammers.
What has been the secret to the right-hander’s success?
“I think the biggest key for me this season has been the confidence in the fastball,” Cunningham said. “I've really been able to work the fastball both in and out to lefties as well as righties and I believe it has allowed me to make the batters feel uncomfortable.”
Just take a look at the numbers.
He’s allowed just 52 hits in 65 innings, while striking out 38 and walking 25.
Opponents are hitting just .226 against a guy who has earned a spot in the Frontier League All-Star Game.
After going undrafted out of Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee, Cunningham went the independent league route.
He played for the Lincoln (Nebraska) Saltdogs in 2015 before joining the Wild Things last year.
“This journey has definitely not been what I expected but I don't think I would trade it for anything,” Cunningham said. “I truly think I have been able to gain so much knowledge from all the guys I've been able to be around and it has helped me grow into my own pitching philosophy.”
He’s also found a home away from home in Washington, which is located about 30 minutes from Pittsburgh.
“I really do enjoy Pennsylvania,” Cunningham said. “Washington's landscape is actually very similar to back home so I never really felt like I was in that different of a place. Also, I really have enjoyed the two teams I've been a part of and when you have a group of good guys, it is hard not to like where you are.”
Strong hangs it up
Bradley Strong’s professional career is over after three seasons and the former Richlands High School star has no regrets.
He had compiled a .250 batting average with two home runs and 10 RBIs in 25 games this season for the Fort Myers Miracle, the High-A affiliate of the Minnesota Twins.
“The Twins were very accepting of me and my decision to retire from baseball,” Strong said. “I think I chased a dream and fell short, but that doesn't mean I'm upset or disappointed. I'm just proud of myself for chasing a dream and not letting anything get in the way of that. Whenever you give something your all, and it just doesn't work out, it's easy to walk away with peace of mind.”
A 28th-round draft pick of the Chicago White Sox in 2015 out of Western Carolina University, Strong hit .283 with nine homers, 60 RBIs and 28 stolen bases in 138 career minor league games. He was an All-Arizona League selection in 2015 while in the White Sox farm system.
“I actually decided to walk away rather than getting let go,” Strong said. “After being released once, you can tell when a team starts to move on to someone else. So I decided to hang it up.”
The 25-year-old Strong is now ready for his post-baseball life to begin.
“I'm waiting to hear about a job this week in sales,” he said.
Miller makes a go at it
Chaz Miller’s first foray into professional baseball has the Honaker High School graduate hoping for more.
“I’m going to work hard this offseason,” Miller said. “Harder than I ever have. I’ll be back next year. I still haven’t given up.”
Miller has had stints with the Roswell (New Mexico) Invaders and Garden City (Kansas) Wind of the independent Pecos League this season.
The right-handed pitcher went 0-1 in seven appearances, allowing 17 runs (16 earned) in 11 innings. The experience certainly gave him a new perspective on things.
“What I took away was humility,” Miller said. “I learned that my good work ethic may have gotten me there, but it takes a great work ethic to stay and an even more sacrificial work ethic to advance or move up.”
Miller is ready to get another chance.
“I don’t know how to give up,” Miller said. “It’s not a choice my mind allows me to take. It’s back to work each and every day. No shortcuts.”
Pitcher Thane Clark (Elizabethton) is also in the Pecos League and has a 9.75 ERA in six outings for Garden City.
A debut to savor
How’s this for the start of your pro career?
That’s what former Science Hill High School star Reed Hayes has done with the Aberdeen IronBirds, a short-season advanced farm team of the Baltimore Orioles.
He polished off a win over the Brooklyn Cyclones on Friday and pitched a scoreless ninth inning on Monday against the Hudson Valley Renegades.
Hayes was a 13th-round selection in last month’s Major League Baseball Amateur Draft after a stellar season at Vanderbilt University.
Nidiffer lands on DL
Marcus Nidiffer (Tennessee High) of the Rockland Boulders is currently on the disabled list.
The veteran catcher was hitting .284 with five home runs and 27 RBIs for the independent-league team before landing on the DL June 24.
The word on Will
Will Carter (Science Hill) has struggled for the Trenton Thunder, the Class AA affiliate of the New York Yankees.
After starting the season on the disabled list, the right-handed pitcher has a 7.04 ERA in four relief outings.
He did pitch well on Monday, however, striking out two in two scoreless innings in an Eastern League victory over the New Hampshire Fisher Cats.
York let go
Ex-East Tennessee State University slugger Trey York was released by the Milwaukee Brewers on June 30.
York hit .277 with one home run and 25 RBIs in 65 games in the Brewers farm system after being a ninth-round draft choice last year.
Craig has good month
Pirates Prospects – a website that covers the goings on in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization – named Will Craig its player of the month for June.
The former Science Hill High School standout hit at a .354 clip in June for the High-A Bradenton Marauders.
For the season, he has a .283 batting average, .388 on-base percentage, five home runs and 37 RBIs.
Grimm’s great June
Justin Grimm (Virginia High) of the Chicago Cubs had a 9.53 ERA after being roughed up by the Pittsburgh Pirates on April 16.
That mark now stands at 4.26 thanks largely to a dominant June as Grimm pitched to the tune of a 0.73 ERA last month in 13 outings for the Cubs.
July might turn out to be pretty good for the right-hander as well if Tuesday is any indication.
He worked 2 2/3 scoreless innings of relief against the Tampa Bay Rays, notching a strikeout and benefitting from two double plays.
It was his longest regular-season outing in the big leagues since going 3 1/3 innings against Baltimore on Aug. 23, 2014.
Norris goes Wednesday
Former Science Hill High School standout Daniel Norris will make his 16th start of the season Wednesday for the Detroit Tigers.
The San Francisco Giants will be his opponent.
Norris is 4-6 with a 5.00 ERA and is coming off his shortest outing of the season, a 3 2/3 inning performance against the Kansas City Royals in which he allowed five runs on eight hits.
“I just haven't felt that dominance this year. At the end of last year, I really truly believed every time I went on the mound that I was going to shut that offense down,” Norris told MLive.com. “This year, even in good outings, there's been that one inning where I just haven't been able to continue that consistency.”