Sports

This Cunningham prefers to do the dealing herself

Her older brother is well known for his ability to hit a fastball.

But South Kitsap sophomore Emily Cunningham prefers to use one to get hitters out.

Similar to her older brother, Aaron, an outfielder who made his major-league debut last year with the Oakland Athletics, Cunningham initially saw herself as a hitter. She was a catcher until four years ago when she decided pitching was more appealing.

“I worked really hard at throwing my fastball and learning locations,” she said.

The work has resulted in Cunningham becoming one of the Wolves’ best pitchers. Through last week, she had a 5-3 record with a 2.90 ERA. In 51 innings, Cunningham struck out 64 batters and allowed 42 hits.

“She’s the type of player you love to have because she’s really competitive,” South coach Kathy Ballew said. “She loves to be on the spot with the pressure.”

She said that mentality is largely beneficial.

“The only thing she might still have to work on are emotions,” Ballew said. “She needs to maybe adapt to umpires that aren’t giving her what she thinks she should get. But that will come.”

Cunningham doesn’t have the extensive repertoire of many who take the mound — she throws a fastball, curveball and changeup.

“I hope to work on my attitude and presence on the mound,” Cunningham said. “I’m working on my pitches to get better and stronger.”

She never has faced Aaron or another older brother, Charles, who plays in a traveling men’s softball league, but she has played catch with both. She also regularly works on skill development with her father, Chuck, when they aren’t watching professional baseball on TV.

And her favorite team isn’t the one most would expect. She considers herself close with Aaron, but not enough to support the A’s over any other team. And it’s not because she likes the Mariners, either.

“I have to say the Yankees,” Cunningham said. “They just catch my interest for some reason. They’re what I like to watch.”

Visuals definitely appeal to her. Cunningham said she hopes to pursue an art-related career, possibly as a fashion designer. She often finds herself doodling and coloring pictures of whatever she can think about.

“I drew with my brother all the time when I was little,” she said. “It caught my eye.”

The fastpitch diamond also is a canvas of sorts. While she has become one of the Wolves’ top pitchers, Cunningham also is among their best hitters. She has a .441 batting average — along with the only two home runs the team has this season — and a team-high 15 RBI.

She credits much of her success to the guidance of her father and older brothers. While she doesn’t see Aaron often during baseball season, she knows he only is a phone call away.

“It’s really exciting to have someone to look up to,” said Cunningham, adding that his status doesn’t put extra pressure on her to perform. “I can ask him about anything what’s happening up there and he’ll tell me.”

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