Randleman takes path back to state finals

Randleman team members gather for a photo after winning the Class 2-A West Region series Friday in Salisbury. (PJ Ward-Brown/Randolph Record)


 MOORESVILLE and SALISBURY – This one just took a little longer, but it had familiar themes for Randleman’s baseball team.

The latest result is what mattered to the Tigers, who’ll return to the Class 2-A state finals in an attempt to repeat as champions.

Even with a bit of unusual circumstances, the Tigers were unfazed.

“Our guys did great,” coach Jake smith said. “They work so hard. It’s hard to explain. Unless you see it every day and you know what takes place.”

The best-of-3 West Region finals concluded with the resumption of Game 2 on Friday afternoon, with the final three innings of the 9-0 outcome against Community School of Davidson played at Catawba College’s Newman Field.

Next up will be the best-of-3 state finals against Whiteville (23-3) on June 3 and 4 at either Burlington or Holly Springs.

Randleman (31-1) capped its domination of the first five rounds of the playoffs, winning six games by a combined score of 74-0.

The most-recent blanking was the team’s state-record 16th shutout victory, including the past seven games — though Game 2 of the regional final was the only one of those across the past few weeks to extend beyond five innings.

The team record for shutouts had been held by Fayetteville Sanford and Whiteville, both with 15 in 2015.

The Tigers won Game 1 by 12-0 on Wednesday night at home.

Game 2 began Thursday night at Moor Park in Mooresville, with Randleman leading 5-0 after four innings before a weather-related suspension. A day later, the venue changed, but the Tigers’ crisp play wasn’t altered.

On Friday, Trey Way took over the pitching duties following Drake Purvis’ stellar start. The Tigers added to their lead in the seventh on Gus Shelton’s two-run home run and Hunter Atkins’ two-run single.

“It’s not over until it’s over,” Shelton said. “Extra runs never hurt. It felt good.”

Sam Kelley singled in the seventh for Community School of Davidson’s only hit.

Soon after, the Tigers celebrated with a dogpile on the infield.

Purvis allowed one base runner in four innings Thursday. The Spartans only threatened in the first, with a runner reaching second base with two outs. In the second inning, Purvis struck out the side.

On offense, the Tigers displayed clutch at-bats, with seven of the runners to cross the plate doing so with two outs.

“Two-strike hitting and putting the ball in play and making them make plays,” said Way, who began the game as the shortstop. “That’s all you can do.”

Bryson Sweatt’s bases-loaded sacrifice fly in the first inning came before Hunter Atkins roped a double to left field for another run in the second.

Shelton smacked an RBI single in the third. Two runs scored on Braylon Hayes’ double in the fourth.

“Thought we had some good at-bats,” Smith said.

The trips to Mooresville, where Community School of Davidson plays some home games, and Salisbury marked the Tigers’ first game outside of Randleman in more than a month after nine consecutive home games.

When the teams were sent to their buses to wait out Thursday’s delay, it was a rare pause for the steamrolling Tigers.

“I was about to fall asleep,” Atkins, an infielder, said of the wait.

The Tigers were fully alert when the game resumed about 20 hours later. Way said it’s just a matter of being ready when the time arrives.

“We’re just playing one at a time,” he said. “We’re just taking it step by step and doing what we do.”

By Bob Sutton