Tigers blank Patriots twice as Randleman closes in on outright PAC title

Randleman’s Hunter Atkins drills the ball during a game against Southwestern Randolph in Piedmont Athletic Conference action last month at Randleman.

CLIMAX — Randleman’s baseball team was close to perfect in a couple of ways during a pair of Piedmont Athletic Conference shutouts last week.

Those results allowed the Tigers to clinch at least a share of the PAC regular-season championship.

“We’ve been swinging it really well,” outfielder Braylen Hayes said. “Pitching is amazing.”

Indeed, in Wednesday’s 10-0 victory at Providence Grove, Ryan White retired the first 17 batters he faced. So he had a perfect game until Brady Collins drew a two-out walk in the bottom of the sixth.

“Just pound the strike zone,” White said. “Doing my job.”

The left-hander’s no-hit bid was gone when Logan Fox led off the bottom of the seventh with a single up the middle. One out later, Tyler Foust singled.

White ended up going 6 2/3 innings before Hunter Atkins finished for the last out.

“I thought Ryan was in control the entire game,” Randleman coach Jake Smith said.

It was a relevant outing for White.

“This is where my brother played high school,” he said, referring to Gage White. “I wanted to pitch against them really bad.”

One of White’s 12 strikeouts to end an inning drew a loud reaction from catcher Brooks Brannon.

“He came inside on a hitter and froze him, and I got excited,” Brannon said.

Not to be outdone, two nights later in the rematch at Randleman, Drake Purvis and Trey Way combined for a one-hitter with 16 strikeouts in a 5-0 victory. Purvis gave up a single to Fox and one walk while striking out 13 in 5 2/3 innings.

Brannon, who had three hits, and Atkins homered in the home game for the Tigers.

In the game at Providence Grove, Hayes put Randleman on the board with a two-run triple as part of a four-run fourth inning. He drove in a seventh-inning run with a double.

Those results gave the Tigers a 10-0 PAC record and a cushion on second-place Trinity. In order for Trinity to catch Randleman, it would have to beat the Tigers twice next week and then close the regular season by sweeping a pair of games from Eastern Randolph.

“I would say that every time we play is a new start,” Brannon said. “It doesn’t matter who we play, we treat it like a championship. I think that’s what makes us successful.”

The Tigers took an undefeated record to this week’s tournament in Charleston, S.C., where they opened play with Monday’s 17-3 victory against Hilton Head. That was sparked by an 11-run first inning. Atkins had five RBI and Brannon and Gus Shelton homered.

By Bob Sutton