By Mike Duprez
The opponents change but the outcome remains the same - Randleman keeps ripping up the record book.
Randleman advanced to 2-A state championship series by sweeping Community School of Davidson in the Western Regional finals. The Tigers won in a pair of routs, 12-0 and 9-0 as they continued their trend of setting new state records.
“I think it’s a credit to our guys,” said Randleman coach Jake Smith. “I feel like I’m a broken record for talking about this but they start every offseason in the fall. It’s a tight-knit group. They work. It continues in the winter months and they get into spring.”
Speaking of broken records, that’s what the Tigers do.
Randleman (31-1) broke the old record for runs scored in a season during the series. The Tigers now have 363 runs for the season. The former record was 356, set by Murphy in 2018.
Also, senior catcher Brooks Brannon tied his father’s record of 20 home runs in one season by smashing two in Game 1. The Tigers have hit 60 home runs this season, another record. Brannon also has 87 RBIs, which is well past the former record of 62. Trey Way is the new record holder for runs in one season with 65. In addition, the Tigers tied the record for shutouts in one season with 15.
“We have been fortunate enough for guys to have great seasons, great careers,” Smith said. “That’s exciting for the kids. They deserve it. They have worked so hard to get to this point. It’s awesome to see them have this level of success as individuals and as a team.”
More records could fall to the Tigers. If they win the state championship series with Whiteville this weekend, they’ll set a new record for wins in one season with 33. One more shutout would give them sole possession of that record. Brannon needs two more hits to set the single-season record and, of course, another homer would give him sole possession of that record.
In addition, the Tigers have an outside chance of setting the team record for hits in a season. They have 339. The record is 370, set by East Rutherford in 2007.
The Tigers have a team batting average of .416, which ranks third all-time. They have a lineup which has threats from top to bottom. Teams generally haven't tried to pitch around Brannon, who’s hitting .608, because of the firepower in the lineup. Cleanup hitter Braylen Hayes is batting .522 with 12 homers and 51 RBIs. Leadoff hitter Trey Way is batting .447 and has slugger numbers of 10 homers and 34 RBIs. Number two hitter Hunter Atkins, who bats in front of Brannon, is hitting .490 with 7 homers and 48 RBIs. Gus Shelton and Seth Way both have 5 homers and over 20 RBIs.
“Our offense has been so great this year that we’re able to keep our pitchers rested and ready to go for the final stretch,” Smith said.
They’ve been close to perfect. The Tigers have outscored their opponents in the playoffs by a combined 74-0. Altogether they have seven straight shutouts.
Randleman has accomplished this with two aces — senior left-hander Ryan White and sophomore right-hander Drake Purvis. White, who has signed with Western Carolina, has a mid-80s fastball and mixes his pitches effectively. He’s 13-1 with an 0.25 earned run average and 97 strikeouts in 57 innings. Purvis, who has committed to North Carolina State and is on track to be a pro prospect, brings the heat with a fastball that ranges from 88-92 mph. He’s 12-0 with an ERA of 0.46 and 116 strikeouts in 60 2/3 innings.
And there’s more. The Tigers showed off their pitching depth Friday night when they completed the series-clinching 9-0 win. Purvis had a no-hitter through four innings Thursday in Mooresville with the Tigers up 5-0 when rain forced a suspension of play. The game was completed Friday at Catawba College’s Newman Park but Purvis couldn’t pitch again because he had thrown four innings the night before.
So the ball was given to Trey Way and he tossed three scoreless innings, allowing one hit and striking out four. Way is 3-0 with a 2.10 ERA and 49 strikeouts in 30 innings. The Virginia Tech recruit would be a No. 1 starter for many teams and he gives Smith an excellent option if the series with Whiteville goes three games.
“He’s a top end guy,” Smith said. “He hasn't had to pitch a whole lot of innings for us. But he’s ready to go anytime. He’s a great athlete on the mound, gives us a good presence.”
Whiteville (23-3) swept North Lenoir — winning 5-3 and 8-6 — to capture the Eastern Regional championship. The Wolfpack’s last state championship was in 2018. The Tigers knocked off Whiteville 3-2 in the third round of the playoffs in 2019. Brannon, Shelton and White played on the 2019 team.