Dane Dunning accomplished something in each of his two starts with Class A Kannapolis that he only did once in his first professional season.
The No. 10 White Sox prospect struck out a 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 Thursday night at L.P. Frans Stadium. Dunning sports a 0.64 ERA with 21 strikeouts in 14 innings this season.
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.
"It's very important to go out and get a good quality start for our team," the University of Florida product said. "It gets us on the right track to be able to save our bullpen a little bit and it goes a long way. Even a game like today where we go extra innings."
The right-hander was pleased with how he was able to utilize his fastball throughout the count, often using it as a put-away pitch with two strikes. Of the 13 Crawdads who fanned, six went down on called strikes.
"My fastball was running really well, it had good life to it, good sink to it," Dunning said. "I mainly pounded fastballs and would spin some and throw some changeups just to get them off balance. My plan of attack was just to pound the zone and work both sides of the plate. Spin a few here and there and hope for the best."
The Crawdads' first run came on an errant pickoff attempt by Dunning. Preston Scott followed Ti'Quan Forbes' leadoff double in the second inning with a fielder's choice that put runners at the corners. The righty tried to pick Scott off at first, but the ball hit Hickory's first baseman on the leg and trickled into foul territory, allowing Forbes to score.
The double by Forbes was the only extra-base hit the 29th overall selection in 2016 has allowed this season. Dunning got out of the inning with a flyout by Jose Almonte and a whiff of Ricardo Valencia to begin a streak of 16 consecutive batters retired. The run ended when Anderson Tejeda, Texas' No. 8 prospect, reached base on a dropped third strike in the seventh.
Dunning needed 95 pitches -- 71 for strikes -- to make it through the outing. It marked his highest pitch count in a single night, though technically it wasn't the furthest he's gone into a game. He started a contest for the Doubledays that began Aug. 13, 2016 and was called for rain midway through the third. In those three scoreless frames, he fanned five on 50 pitches. The same game was completed by Dunning on Sept. 4 in Auburn. He allowed a run and struck out three in six innings to notch his first complete game with a total pitch count of 125.
"I was actually messing with my teammates earlier about that. A week ago, one of them asked me if I've ever gone a complete game and I told him I did last year," he said. "Today, I told him I was messing with him and I told him how it actually happened and he thought it was really funny. It took a couple minutes to actually explain it."
On Thursday, the Crawdads walked off with two outs in the 12th on a triple by Jose Almonte that plated Tejeda.