Randleman’s rich pitching provides perks

Randleman pitcher Drake Purvis reacts to an out during Thursday night’s shutout of East Gaston in the Class 2-A state playoffs. (PJ Ward-Brown / Randolph Record)

Tigers blank first two baseball foes in state playoffs

RANDLEMAN – Trey Way is considered among the best pitchers on Randleman’s star-studded baseball team.

Too bad he rarely finds his way to the mound these days.

“They don’t give me chances anymore,” Way said with a laugh, understanding the situation. “It’s a good thing.”

Randleman’s bid to repeat as Class 2-A state champion is off to a rousing start through the first week of the state playoffs.

It was Drake Purvis’ turn Thursday night, when he tossed a one-hitter in an 11-0 second-round victory against visiting East Gaston. The game was cut short to five innings.

“It went pretty quickly,” Purvis said. “And that’s what you want.”

It was the team’s 12th shutout of the season, albeit some coming in shortened games based on the prolific offense racking up so many runs that the mercy rule is implemented.

“We look to run-rule every team that we can,” catcher Brooks Brannon said. “And if we can’t, we just win in seven and that’s OK with us.”

The Tigers (27-1), the top seed in the West Region, will be back in action for another home game Tuesday night when 25th-seeded Mount Pleasant visits in the third round.

Dispatching East Gaston (20-7) came on top of the 15-0 five-inning blanking of visiting Lincolnton on Tuesday when Ryan White dealt three innings with three strikeouts and Seth Way worked the last two innings of the combined two-hitter.

White, a senior, and Purvis, a sophomore, are a pair of energetic left-handers. They credit Brannon with keeping them on task.

“I can tell by the look in their eyes, and they’re always dialed in,” Brannon said. “Whenever they’re dialed in, they’re unhittable. As long as we keep rolling like that, it’s hard for us to lose.”

Purvis struck out 11, including three in the seventh. He issued his only two walks in that frame as well. East Gaston’s lone hit was a first-inning infield dribbler.

After seeing what White can do, Purvis said it’s a matter of going out and matching it.

“It’s a competition. That’s how I view it,” Purvis said. “He’s the best. I’m the best.”

It’s a luxury for coach Jake Smith.

“It all starts on the bump. I feel like we’ve got two, three maybe four,” he said of the pitching-rich options. “I just feel like we’ve got a number of our guys that can be successful at any time. We’ve got confidence in them. … I feel we really have a great staff that really knows its roles.”

Center fielder Braylen Hayes views the mound work from a distance, noting the importance of those duties, particularly with some convenient power alleys for batters at Joe Brookshire Field.

“Our pitching is some studs,” Hayes said.

Purvis mixed in fastballs, curveballs, sliders and change-ups to keep the Warriors off balance.

So for Trey Way, he has been limited to a handful of pitching starts. Still …

“He’s right there with them,” Smith said of the team’s top pitchers.

This sets up as an ideal combination if the Tigers continue to advance.

“We try to minimize as much damage as possible,” Smith said. “Defense really works good behind our pitchers, really try to play clean baseball all the way around. You want to save arms. Offense is kind of the cure-all when it comes to stuff like that. We’ve been pretty aggressive with the sticks and getting good leads early on teams and putting pressure on.”

Even light rain couldn’t dampen the Tigers’ offense in their latest game.

Randleman began the scoring Thursday with Brannon’s two-run, opposite-field laser to right field for a home run on the first pitch he saw in the bottom of the first. Trey Way hit a ground-rule double to center field and Hunter Atkins drilled a two-run single to highlight a five-run second inning.

In the fourth, Brannon’s lead-off double set the tone for four more runs, with Bryson Sweatt, Gus Shelton and White providing run-scoring singles and Kaden Ethier posting a sacrifice fly.

White finished 3-for-3 and Sweatt drove in three runs.

In Tuesday’s first-round romp, Atkins homered and tripled as part of a four-RBI outing, Brannon also drove in four runs and Trey Way scored three times.

By Bob Sutton