Dominant pitching is nothing new for the Dunwoody Wildcats.
Hudson Randall, now a freshman at the University of Florida, was the go-to pitcher for the Wildcats a year ago. Four pitchers have stepped out of Randall’s shadow this season and runs are still hard to come by for Dunwoody opponents.
Before spring break, the foursome of senior Hunter Wheeler, junior Wes Bancroft and sophomores James Farnell and James Cunningham combined to hold opposing teams without an earned run for 32 straight innings (six games). After going 2-2 in four games in Florida over spring break, the Wildcats put together a streak of 21 innings over the next four games without an earned run.
That streak ended April 21 in a 15-1 win over Carver Atlanta.
The Wildcats (18-4) have qualified for the Class AAA state tournament and played St. Pius on April 28 for the No. 1 seed in Region 5-AAA.
The streaks never have been a focus during the season, in fact the foursome didn’t realize the second one came to an end last week.
“We just go out and do our jobs,” Bancroft said.
And all four have done it well. Wheeler is the power pitcher among the bunch, while the other three pick their spots and have effective off-speed pitches.
“Hudson was so dominant last season,” Wheeler said. “We lost 12 seniors last year but only two were pitchers. We knew we’d have more depth pitching this year.”
Wheeler and Bancroft have gotten most of the starts, but all four have been able to step in and pitch whenever they’re needed. Wheeler had a no-hitter this season in a 1-0 win over Druid Hills when he also struck out four batters.
“Hunter is more of a power pitcher and the rest of us are location pitchers and throw more off speed stuff,” Farnell said. “We’re all pretty much ready to come in whenever we need to.”
Farnell pitched a one-hitter and struck out six in a three-inning 15-0 win over Therrell, while Cunningham allowed two hits and fanned seven in a 17-0, three-inning win over Clarkston earlier this season.
Bancroft pitched well in two starts on the Florida trip. He allowed only three earned runs in nine innings and struck out 11.
“The main thing we stress is defense,” Dunwoody coach Chan English said. “We want them to throw strikes and keep the ball in the park so the defense can make plays. All four play great defense off the mound.”
All but Cunningham have spent time on the varsity before this season, and all four have known each other for years as they came up through the same recreation league programs.
“You usually don’t have four kids with the confidence they have,” English said. “All four are big competitors and that adds to their confidence level. They know if they don’t get it done the defense will come in and help.”
The Wildcats’ defense has been a big factor in the pitchers being able to keep runs off the board. Opponents have scored more than three runs against Dunwoody only seven times in 23 games, and four of those were at the beginning of the season.
“We didn’t exactly know how the defense would respond because we had only two starters back,” Wheeler said. “We’ve really improved with our defense and stepped up to the challenge. We’ve filled so many gaps.”
The foursome should give the Wildcats an edge in the state tournament, where they will be seeking retribution after getting bounced in the first round last year for the first time since 2003.