Randleman’s Brooks Brannon connects on his 20th home run of the season, tying the state record as the Tigers opened the Class 2-A West Region finals with a blowout victory. PJ WARD-BROWN/RANDOLPH RECORD
RANDLEMAN – Brooks Brannon didn’t have to be reminded that he was approaching the state record for home runs in a season.
The Randleman slugger has been fully aware of the number to reach.
It’s a mark set by his father, Paul Brannon, 33 years ago.
Now the elder Brannon has company on that list.
“I have been thinking about it,” Brooks Brannon said. “I think about it when I wake up, when I’m eating, when I go to bed. When I get up there in the box, it just disappears and it goes away. It’s like just a peaceful feeling because I don’t have to worry about it. I’m just doing what I need to do to win.”
He smashed two three-run home runs Wednesday night, ideal bookends to the Tigers’ 12-0 victory against visiting Community School of Davidson in Game 1 of the best-of-3 Class 2-A West Region finals.
The senior catcher’s latest blast was his 20th of the season, tying his dad’s mark in 1989 for Kings Mountain.
His first homer of the night opened the scoring in the first inning. Then he went to the plate with two outs in the bottom of the fifth, with Randleman one run shy of its fifth consecutive mercy-rule shutout of the state playoffs.
“I might have been thinking about it right here (in the on-deck circle) and then walking up to the plate, it disappeared,” he said. “I was empty. I was just sitting up there and reacting and it was a great feeling.”
That led to great joy among the Tigers. This group knows how to celebrate home runs, but the reaction to his shot was off the charts.
“He has been going for that goal all these years, especially being that it’s his dad’s record,” senior pitcher Ryan White said. “He just tied it, hope he can break it. He worked so hard for it.
“He has a really close relationship with his dad, probably one of the closest relationships I’ve ever seen. To tie his own dad’s record, shoot, it has me a little emotional. I’m proud of him for it.”
Brannon is a University of North Carolina signee, though also a potential high-round selection in this summer’s amateur draft. He passed his father’s state RBI record in the season’s 20th game, then took 11 more games to catch him on another list.
He’s under scrutiny from pro scouts on a regular basis, and he has kept an even keel in just about every circumstance in recent weeks.
Then the ball sailed far over the left-field fence. As the mayhem around him unfolded, his reaction was evolving – a wide grin and later nearly in tears.
“Knowing that I made my dad happy is what sets the night,” he said. “That’s what made me … I’m about to get emotional. Knowing that I made him happy just makes it so much better.”
It’s hard to fathom a more incredible conclusion to a game decided by a dozen runs.
“Brooks to end it like he did, I don’t know how you get more special than that,” coach Jake Smith said.
The Tigers (30-1) aim to repeat a trip to the state finals when they play Game 2 of the regional final Thursday night at Moor Park in Mooresville. If a third game is needed, it will be Saturday at Randleman.
Smith liked how Brannon ended Game 1.
“He was wanting it on that swing,” he said.
That pushed his RBI total to 87, far ahead of his father’s 62.
It also was the potential final home game for White, a left-hander who crafted another masterful performance. He worked 4 1/3 innings, giving up one hit and striking out six without a walk.
“It’s just close to my heart,” White said. “I’d like to end here on a win. If we’re going to do it like that, I’d like to end on that. I just like to win and get on to the next game.”
Seth Way struck out the last two batters in the top of the fifth. Smith said that allowed the Tigers to prevent White from exceeding 60 pitches, something that could prove helpful based on North Carolina High School Athletic Association pitch-count rules.
In between the Brannon smashes – the first one going to right-center field — there was other notable offense. Braylen Hayes doubled, Way’s single plated another run and Kaden Either rapped a two-out run-scoring single in the first when the Tigers sent 11 batters to the plate.
Hunter Atkins and Brannon hit one-out singles in the fourth, with Atkins then stealing third. That set up Hayes’ sacrifice fly, followed by Bryson Sweatt’s RBI single and Way’s two-run homer.
“Just got to keep the bats rolling,” Atkins said. “I feel like that’s a key factor.”