UCA Eagles dethrone Randleman in PAC Tournament for baseball

RANDLEMAN – Uwharrie Charter Academy’s baseball team went where it had never gone before Thursday night.

Claiming the championship in the Piedmont Athletic Conference.

UCA pitcher Brett Smith

Brett Smith pitched a seven-hitter with nine strikeouts and the Eagles came up with clutch hits, with Carter Brown providing three run-producing singles and Alex Carver homering in visiting UCA’s 6-1 victory in the PAC Tournament championship game.

“We hadn’t beaten them since we joined the conference,” Brown said. “We had that mindset that we’re going to play good and we should come out and win. We came with the confidence that we could beat them.”

Randleman (19-5), which was undefeated in PAC play this year, had won the last three conference tournaments contested. The Tigers swept a doubleheader from UCA (20-5) during the regular season.

“It’s hard beating someone three times in a year – a good team like that,” Randleman coach Jake Smith said. “Expectations are what they are.”

The Eagles have been on a roll for weeks. Since the March 26 twinbill, they’ve won 14 games in a row.

“We’ve done it with different people every night being hot and it has been beautiful to watch,” UCA coach Rob Shore said.

Brett Smith, who didn’t face the Tigers earlier this season, had things under control for most of the night.

“I had to trust my stuff and trust my defense at the same time,” the junior right-hander said.

UCA outfielder Carter Brown

UCA finally got going against Randleman starter Jake Riddle, who retired the first 10 batters. Troy Carver singled in the fourth for the Eagles’ first hit and Trey Kennedy, Caleb Stickle and Brown followed with singles. With the bases loaded, Grat Dalton was hit by a pitch.

Alex Carver hit his second home run of the season and second in as many games to lead off the fifth. The Eagles kept attacking and, with two outs, Stickle’s RBI double and Brown’s run-scoring single pushed the lead to 5-0. Carter had another two-out single to drive in a seventh-inning run.

Randleman’s big chance came with four consecutive singles to start the sixth, with Braxton Walker driving in one run and leaving the bases loaded for Caden Lasley. He grounded into a 3-2-3 double play, with nifty work from UCA first baseman Trey Kennedy.

“I was ready for it,” Kennedy said. “It was just like we practice it all the time.”

That doused about the only momentum Randleman ever had.

“We had a lot of energy the whole game,” Kennedy said.

The Tigers had too many offensive lulls.

“You got to put balls in play and can’t make it easy on them,” Jake Smith said.

Alex Carver and Kennedy are transfers from East Davidson, which was eliminated by Randleman in the third round of last year’s state playoffs.

The teams will go their respective ways, with UCA looking to repeat as Class 1-A state champion and Randleman aiming for another deep run in the Class 2-A state playoffs.

“We’ve been on a hot streak,” Alex Carver said. “I think we’re going to hit the playoffs and keep doing what we’re doing.”

Jake Smith, whose teams won state titles in 2021 and 2022, said with a strong body of work already this season, it’s time to focus on the playoffs.

“This (conference tournament final) is not going to dictate whether we play good or bad in the playoffs,” he said.

Earlier in the tournament …

UCA won in the quarterfinals Monday by topping seventh-seeded Eastern Randolph 7-0 behind Jake Hunter’s six-hitter. Then the Eagles wiped out sixth-seeded Providence Grove 12-2 on Tuesday, with Alex Carver logging a five-inning complete game.

Randleman had a bye in the first round before stopping fifth-seeded Southwestern Randolph 6-1 in the semifinals despite recording only one hit. The Tigers drew 10 walks and had two batters hit by pitches. Seth Way posted a four-hitter with six strikeouts.

Southwestern Randolph escaped with a 13-12, eight-inning victory at fourth-seeded Trinity in the quarterfinals, aided by home runs from Brady Armfield, Jake Lunsford and Zack Scruggs. Meanwhile, Providence Grove’s Andrew Thomas threw 6 1/3 innings and Trevor Kirkman notched the final two outs in the Patriots’ 2-0 upset of third-seeded Wheatmore.

By Bob Sutton