Tanner Marsh has been a key factor as a shortstop and pitcher for Randolph County Post 45. (PJ Ward-Brown/Randolph Record)
Randolph County roars into postseason on hot streak
ASHEBORO — It took a little time for Randolph County Post 45 to figure it out.
The timing, though, is ideal.
The American Legion baseball team has been riding a hot streak that began with the second part of the regular season and has extended into the postseason.
“We’re coming together as a team and understanding how to play with each other,” outfielder Adam Cole said.
That tends to be the sentiment.
“We started connecting,” said shortstop Tanner Marsh. “Really got to know each other. Just being around each other and getting to know each other makes baseball more fun.”
Randolph County is 27-8 and secured a spot in the North Carolina state tournament by sweeping Kannapolis Post 115 in a best-of-5 Area 3 semifinal series, capped with Monday night’s 15-2 road victory.
Post 45 has won 17 of 19 games after a rather mundane start to the season.
There’s a winner-take-all Area 3 title game vs. Rowan County at 7 p.m. Friday at Catawba College in Salisbury. The state tournament is next week in Buies Creek.
Post 45 manager Ronnie Pugh has finally had roster stability, something that has taken time.
Outfielder Braylen Hayes and utility player Trey Way arrived from Randleman’s Class 2-A state championship team. First baseman Josh Meadows is on board after a broken hand during the high school season with Asheboro. Third baseman Tyler Parks out of Southwestern Randolph missed the Area 3 quarterfinal series last week because he was with a travel ball team, but he’s on board the rest of the way with Post 45.
“Our team chemistry is there,” said Parks, who missed about 10 of Randolph County’s games. “The more we play together, the more we learn about each other.”
Way had been with the High Point Hushpuppies in the Old North State League, a college summer circuit, last month. But the rising Virginia Tech freshman said his college coaches wanted him to get more plate appearances, so switching to Post 45 made sense.
“We have a lot of good players,” Way said. “It just took a couple of games to learn to play together. I think it’s clicking now, so I can’t wait to watch what this team can do.”
Pitcher Grant Little out of Trinity has been dealing with a shoulder ailment, but the pitching staff otherwise looks rather stocked.
Pugh said he hopes a challenging schedule has prepared Post 45 along the way.
“We played probably our best schedule we’ve ever had, and that might have played into it,” he said of some of the early defeats.
Cole, a returning player with Post 45, said it was a bit startling with how the opening weeks of the season went.
“I didn’t expect that at all,” he said, then noting the turnaround. “This is Post 45 baseball right here.”
Now it’s a matter of keeping it going.
“I don’t want to get our heads too big,” Tanner Marsh said.
In cruise control
Randolph County won three games shortened by the mercy rule in the best-of-5 semifinals, topping Kannapolis by 11-1 and 12-0 at McCrary Park on the weekend.
In Monday’s series clincher, Blake Marsh was the winning pitcher in his first start on the mound this season. Marsh also drove in two runs along with Hayes, Drew Harmon, and Tatum Marsh.
In Saturday night’s Game 1, Hayes went 3-for-4, and Tanner Marsh, who pitched five innings, homered.
On Sunday night, Hayes smashed a grand slam in a 10-run third inning, drilling the first pitch from Kannapolis reliever Jack Brandle. Starting pitcher Robert Garner allowed one base runner in four innings. Hayes and Harmon each had two hits.
In the quarterfinals, Post 45 rolled to 14-0 and 9-0 victories against Mooresville Post 66 in the best-of-3 series. Due to field availability in Asheboro, Game 1 was played at Mooresville, with Post 45 using Way’s 3-for-4 effort at the plate along with four runs batted in from both Harmon and Tanner Marsh. Garner threw four innings, and Hayes worked the fifth to complete the five-inning romp.
In Game 2 at McCrary Park, Randolph County rode the pitching of Way, Blake Marsh, and Connor Adams to secure another shutout and clinch the series. Blake Marsh supplied a three-run triple in the second inning after Post 45 scored twice in the first inning on Tanner Marsh’s run-scoring double and Way’s RBI single. Cole and Tatum Marsh had two-out singles in the third to stretch the gap to 8-0. Carson Whitehead’s single drove in a fifth-inning run.