District 4’s Dunn gets first taste of pro ball

Nick Dunn took a second to look around at his surroundings. He was standing in a ballpark he was familiar with getting ready to play his first professional game on a field he played on three years ago.

“It’s a little bit different,” the State College Spikes’ second baseman said of Bowman Field. “It’s a little bit nicer.”

Dunn hadn’t seen the 90-year-old ballpark since he was a senior at Shikellamy High School, playing in the Class AAA District 4 championship game against Jersey Shore. On Friday night, though, Dunn played a baseball field in that same stadium as a professional.

The University of Maryland product went 1 for 4 in his debut with the State College Spikes on Friday night, doubling down the first-base line to lead off the fourth inning. Everything Dunn did during the course of the night elicited cheers from a group of friends and family along the third-base line.

The night was as much a celebration of the moments which brought Dunn to professional baseball as anything. By being drafted in the fifth round by the St. Louis Cardinals, Dunn was given the opportunity to start his career close to home with State College. It just so happened the Spikes were playing on the road against the Williamsport Crosscutters, allowing Dunn to play his first professional game in the same stadium where he played three high school games.

“My family was able to get to Maryland a lot, but to be this close for my first professional season, they’re pretty happy and excited about it,” Dunn said prior to Friday’s game. “It’s been pretty surreal for me from the time I was drafted up until now. Being able to be close to home and have my family and friends being able to experience it with me is special for me.”

This is the second consecutive season a District 4 graduate has played in the New York-Penn League. Last year, Bloomsburg graduate Colton Hock pitched for Batavia after being drafted out of Stanford in the fourth round by the Miami Marlins.

Dunn is doing his best to put all the excitement of the last two weeks behind him and just focus on baseball. He finally got to do that when the game started Friday night and he never once looked out of place. He got a pitch up in the zone from Williamsport’s Ethan Lindow in the fourth inning and drove it down the first-base line for his first professional hit.

“The first couple of days where I had to report, that was pretty exciting,” Dunn said. “Then a couple days after that it was time to get that out of the way. The time to be excited is over. It’s time to play now.”

He and shortstop Delvin Perez teamed up on a slick inning-ending double play in the first inning. He made a strong play charging a slow hopper up the middle and throwing on the run to throw out Williamsport’s Julio Francisco to lead off the eighth inning.

Hitting leadoff for the Spikes, he grounded out in his first at-bat when he got jammed and broke his bat. Dunn grounded out again in the fifth inning before flying out to right field in the eighth.

He doesn’t expect the baseball to be much different than it was playing at Maryland. He’s used to playing every day after spending the last two summers in the Cape Cod League, the most prestigious summer college wood bat league in the country.

He’s already enjoying the grind of the game and getting to practice and play every day.

“Maybe it’ll be a little different because it’s pro ball, but it’s an adjustment you have to make and you have to have fun with it,” Dunn said. “Being able to come out and practice every day and play every day is going to be fun.”

A SOLID DEBUT

Ethan Lindow called his first three innings Friday night almost too good to be true. Hard to argue with that logic.

The 19-year-old Williamsport Crosscutters left-hander was perfect through three innings Friday. He had thrown just 31 pitches and the State College offense was killing more worms than a weekend fisherman.

“I was rolling pretty good, painting the zone, getting outs and getting a lot of of strikes,” Lindow said. “I was in a bit of a groove. And then the fourth inning I got out of the groove a little bit and gave up a couple hits. But it happens.”

The one tough inning for Lindow shouldn’t ruin what was an otherwise stellar outing. He was perfect through the first three innings and worked around a leadoff walk in the fifth inning before being lifted after 60 pitches.

His only hiccup was the fourth inning when he found the middle of the plate with some of his off-speed stuff. Nick Dunn doubled down the first-base line for State College. Brendan Donovan tripled on a ball to right field which hit off Ben Pelletier’s glove. And Brady Whalen doubled to center field when Keudy Bocio got twisted around and had the ball bounce off his glove.

“They were sitting on my cutter a little bit,” Lindow said. “I was trying to go out and in and I ended up leaving it over the middle and they got a good part of the bat on it.”

Lindow put that one inning in its proper perspective. It was just one-fifth of his outing and was a couple of inches from seeing both long fly balls caught in the outfield.

He finished having thrown 75 percent of his pitches for strikes, having thrown first-pitch strikes to 11 of the 19 hitters he faced, and scattering four hits. In all, it was a positive debut for the former fifth-round pick.

“I felt really good about it,” Lindow said. “I went out and did the best I could to get my team a win. I missed a couple pitches and they hit it around a bit, but overall it was a pretty good outing.”

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