CHATHAM, NJ - For the first time in years, the Chatham High School baseball team has found themselves entering the state tournament as the No. 1 seed.

The team has finally broken out of its spell of constant losses and short seasons, with a 17-6 record. At the front of Chatham baseball’s newfound success: the coaching staff, talented underclassmen, and team leadership -- fueled largely by senior co-captain Jimmy Cunningham.

 “It's pretty cool to be one of the leaders of the most successful Chatham baseball team in a long time, and it's an honor to be recognized by my teammates as a captain,” Cunningham said. “Everyone on the team has a role. Whether you're the cleanup hitter, or the guy that gets everyone going on the bench, you have to know your role and excel at it. When everyone buys into that mentality it creates something special, which I believe we have this year.”

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Cunningham fills a number of those roles for the Cougar as the shortstop, starting pitcher and closing relief pitcher for Chatham.

Jimmy Cunningham is the Hawk Allstate Chatham Athlete of the Week.

Cunningham has devoted a large part of his personal life to baseball, playing at the rec level his entire life before progressing to club with the Locked In Expos. He is now a three-year varsity player and co-captain of the Chatham High team. Cunningham has been an asset to this season’s success, both on the mound and at bat.

“This is the first year I've been here when the team has truly had a winning mentality,” Cunningham said. “In previous years, we’ve had a lot of talent, but this year we believe in ourselves and we expect to win and I think that's been the biggest difference.”

Before he takes his final leave from the field, Cunningham hopes to contribute to Chatham baseball legacy and take home a Group III state title. Chatham has not won a state title since the borough and township schools were combined in 1988.

 Cunningham has chosen to continue his baseball career after his time playing for Chatham comes to a close. He will be playing baseball for Bentley University in the fall.

“Getting recruited was always the goal,” Cunningham said. “But I wasn’t someone who would go anywhere just to play baseball. Finding a good fit academically was more important to me, and luckily I was able to get both at Bentley.”

Cunningham is going into his first college baseball season open-mindedly and ready to take on the new season’s challenge,

“I just want to do anything I can to contribute as a freshman," he said. "I'm not really going in with any expectations.”

Editor's note: The Hawk Allstate Chatham Athlete of the Week is sponsored by the John Hawk Agency. John and his team have been protecting local families and business owners for over 12 years. Call them at  973-635-9494 for a new auto, home, life and business insurance quote this week and if you mention the Hawk Allstate Chatham Athlete of the Week they will make a $20 contribution to the Chatham Booster Club! To learn more, visit the agency website