Randleman begins state finals with no-hitter, another record

Here’s Drake Purvis of Randleman after his no-hitter against Whiteville to begin the Class 2-A state finals. (Bob Sutton/Randolph Record)

BURLINGTON – Randleman’s baseball team wants to repeat its Class 2-A state championship this weekend and the Tigers were in a reminiscing mood based on Game 1 of the title series.

How does another no-hitter sound?

That’s two in a row in the state finals on the same field, dating to last June.

Drake Purvis’ masterful 12-strikeout performance boosted the Tigers in a 10-0 victory against Whiteville on Friday night at Burlington Athletic Stadium.

There was yet another state record set by catcher Brooks Brannon as his high school career winds down. He naturally deflected the impact of his contributions.

“The fact that I’m back here again – whether I went 3-for-4 or 0-for-4, I’m just happy to be here,” Brannon said. “The energy here, I love it.”

Game 2 is at 2 p.m. Saturday, with a decisive Game 3, if necessary, coming at either 5 or 8 p.m. Senior Ryan White, who threw a no-hitter in the winner-take-all 2021 final against Rutherfordton-Spindale Central, is set to be on the mound.

Game 1 ended via the mercy rule on Bryson Sweatt’s sacrifice fly with one out in the fifth.

Randleman (32-1) is unscored upon in seven games in the state playoffs, though only one of those has gone the full seven innings because of the mercy rule. Whiteville (23-4) had a 21-game winning streak snapped.

Brannon went 3-for-4, with the middle of those hits a second-inning single to left field with two outs. That was his state-record 66th hit of the season to go with the single-season RBI mark set earlier this spring and tying the home run record in the regional finals. The previous hits record was set by Shawn Gallagher of New Hanover in 1995.

Purvis, a sophomore left-hander, could have been unnerved when Bud Baldwin, the first batter of the game, stood at second base after third baseman Hunter Atkins’ two-base throwing error – the first fielding miscue by the Tigers in the playoffs.

“It wasn’t happening,” Purvis said of potentially allowing a run.

The circumstance didn’t faze him.

“Especially since it’s always in the back of your head, particularly the shutouts in a row,” Brannon said. “Not wanting a run to score and ruin it. The fact that he just doesn’t let it get to him is incredible.”

Even though the largely veteran group of Tigers had been in the state finals a year ago, coach Jake Smith said the reaction to the early glitch was encouraging.

“It’s baseball and you have to expect you’re going to have some of that adversity,” he said. “It was great to see how these kids handled that.”

Purvis, who walked one and hit a batter, said he sensed he was in good form while warming up.

“Arm felt good,” he said. “Ball is exploding out of my hand.”

Meanwhile, the Tigers scored in all five innings.

“We like seeing new teams every week,” Randleman second baseman Kaden Ethier said. “We like seeing new arms. We capitalize every time we see new arms. We did what we always do.”

Two of the Tigers’ hardest hit balls came right away, with Trey Way drilling the first pitch in the bottom of the first inning for a triple. One out later, Brannon belted a double over center fielder J.T. Todd’s head.

While escaping potential trouble in the top of the inning had the large contingent of Randleman fans worked into a frenzy, by the time Way and Brannon did their early damage the grandstand was shaking and it was a preview of more noise to come.

The three runs in the second inning came with a rally constructed entirely with two outs. Ethier followed White’s single with a double and they both scored when Way’s fly to deep right field was dropped. Atkins then drove in Way with a single.

Ethier roped a two-run single in the third, making it 6-0. Brannon, Braylen Hayes and Sweatt provided consecutive doubles in the fourth before another run scored on an infield error.

By Bob Sutton