Tigers to take different test on spring break

Randleman’s Braylen Hayes (No. 4) is greeted at the plate by teammates after hitting a home run in last month’s 11-1 victory against visiting Southwestern Randolph. The Tigers remained undefeated.

RANDLEMAN — Randleman’s baseball team has been dominant this season as the Tigers are fresh off their 2021 state championship. 

They’ll be tested in different ways next week when they take part in the highly regarded Hanahan Invitational Tournament (known as H.I.T.) based in Charleston, S.C.

“The guys are all really excited about it,” coach Jake Smith said. “Something new, get to travel. I kind of like the fact of the kids getting away (to experience something different).”

Entering games this week, the Tigers held a 13-0 overall record and an 8-0 mark in Piedmont Athletic Conference play.

In some past seasons, Randleman participated in a tournament put on by the Greensboro Grasshoppers, but then spring break calendars didn’t match up so that was off the docket. There was a trip a few years ago for a tournament in Myrtle Beach, S.C.

The H.I.T., which celebrated a 50th edition of its event in 2019, features several brackets. Randleman is guaranteed to have one game each day from April 11-13, with another one April 14 if it advances to the final of its bracket.

Teams from five states plus Washington, D.C., will compete/ The Tigers begin play at West Ashley High School by facing Hilton Head, S.C.

Among the entrants from North Carolina are Charlotte Providence, Ardrey Kell and 2021 Class 4-A state finalist Reagan. Across the tournament field of more than 30 teams, Randleman is bound to be among the smallest schools represented.

“All the teams that are going down there are legit,” Smith said. “We’ll see how good we are. This should be good for us. Nothing really fazes them. Get that adrenaline running and those nervous feelings going and get in some high-impact situations.”

As for the Tigers’ strong start this season, that was probably expected.

“I think the guys have played together for a while now,” Smith said. “We’ve got a lot of leadership as far as a nucleus. I think it has kind of carried over.”

Some of the big margins have been beneficial in numerous ways. There have been opportunities to use additional position players, while the pitching staff hasn’t been taxed.

“Scoring some runs, we’ve been able to get guys in and keep some pitch counts down,” Smith said.

Randleman has nearly sewed up the PAC regular-season title. The Tigers were slated for two games this week against third-place Providence Grove and then return from spring break for two matchups with second-place Trinity. Randleman doesn’t have a league game in the final week of the regular season.

By Bob Sutton