Dane Dunning returned to the Carolina League after a solid debut there last year. If early results are any indication, he won't be there much longer.
The sixth-ranked White Sox prospect took a no-hitter into the seventh inning and struck out eight for the second straight start as Class A Advanced Winston-Salem blanked Myrtle Beach, 9-0, on Wednesday night. Chris Pieters broke up the no-no with a one-out single and Dunning was lifted after allowing another single to Jhonny Pereda. Contrary to conventional thinking, the 23-year-old was hardly fazed by missing out on his brush with history.
"I wasn't even in that mindset," Dunning said about losing the no-hitter. "We had a 9-0 lead, so for me it was important to just keep runs off the board. I really wasn't thinking about it at that point. I knew it was going on and for a brief second you say, 'Dang it,' but I went right back after the next guy. I had the same plan if we were behind or ahead: go out and attack the hitters."
Gameday box score
MLB.com's No. 92 overall prospect allowed three baserunners through six innings, two on errors. He plunked P.J. Higgins in the first and his own miscue allowed Pereda to reach in the third. Dash third baseman Ti'Quan Forbes' error let Andruw Monasterio reach with two outs in the sixth. The former first-round Draft pick retired Joel Booker to begin the seventh, but Pieters grounded a 2-1 offering up the middle for the Pelicans' first hit.
"I wanted to work back to front and to get on top of the ball," Dunning said. "I'm a sinkerballer, so I want to keep it low and when I do that I get my true sink. One thing I focused on this offseason was working on my curveball. [White Sox pitching coach] Don Cooper gave me a few calls this winter to work on that pitch and my changeup, and that's what I did. I continued that through the spring and got some really great help from James Shields. He showed me a different grip to use for the curve, which it gives it a little sharper bite and allows me to control it more. That's been a big plus for me so far."
Video: Myrtle Beach's Pieters ends the no-hit bid
Dunning threw 62 of 92 pitches for strikes, giving up two hits without walking a batter over 6 1/3 innings. With 16 strikeouts, he's tied for the league lead with Potomac's Matthew Crownover. The Florida native has allowed three hits or fewer in four consecutive starts dating to his final two outings of 2017. Overall, Dunning posted a 2.94 ERA and struck out 168 batters in 144 innings with Class A Kannapolis and Winston-Salem last year, his first full-season campaign.
"Nothing was expected by me [on returning to the Carolina League]," the University of Florida product said. "I came to Spring Training hoping to make the Double-A [Birmingham] roster, but they have a plan for me and for everybody. I trust the process and can't control where they put me. I'm just thankful to play this game, and that's way I see it. It doesn't matter where I end up as long as I get to play."
Video: Winston-Salem's Dunning whiffs his eighth batter
Blake Hickman and Zach Thompson combined to allow one hit and one walk with two strikeouts over 2 2/3 innings to complete the shutout.
White Sox No. 13 prospect Luis Alexander Basabe went 3-for-5 with a triple, two RBIs, two runs scored and a stolen base. Tenth-ranked Micker Adolfo contributed an RBI single and a double, while No. 11 Gavin Sheets chipped in a run-scoring double for the Dash, who broke open the game with a five-run fifth.
Cubs No. 18 prospect Keegan Thompson started for Myrtle Beach and surrendered four runs on six hits and a walk with three strikeouts over 4 1/3 innings.