By Mike Duprez
Brooks Brannon came up to the plate in the fifth inning of Randleman’s game on Tuesday with runners in scoring position.
The senior catcher then did what he usually does: He drove them in.
Brannon’s two-run single up the middle in the Tigers’ 10-0 win over Trinity gave him 63 RBIs for the season — a new North Carolina High School Athletic Association single-season record.
Randleman public address announcer Tommy McDonald let the crowd know as coach Jake Smith retrieved the baseball. Smith walked out onto the field, handing the ball to Brannon as play was stopped briefly.
Brannon came out for a courtesy runner and was greeted by a receiving line of teammates.
“I honestly wasn't even thinking about it,” Brannon said. “I didn't even know. I knew I had a bunch of RBIs. But I didn't know I had a chance of breaking the state record. Tommy announced it over the microphone.
“We still have a lot of season left and I want to keep producing for my team.”
The previous record of 62 RBIs for a season was held by Murphy’s Royce Peterson (2018) and T.C. Roberson’s Alex Ledford (2011). The Randolph County record of 54 RBIs was formerly shared by Eastern Randolph's Brian Wright (1997) and Matt Brown (1997).
Brannon needed five RBIs in the Trinity game to break the record. He got that as well as his 13th home run of the season.
“It’s a testament to his hard work, how he appreciates the game, how he has advanced so much over the last couple of years,” Smith said. “Not only that but it’s also a great statement for how good this team is with the top of our lineup getting on base and the guys behind him. It’s a total team effort and he realizes that.”
Brannon, who has signed with North Carolina, will tell you that in an instant.
“It's a tribute to the guys in front of me and how much my team fights for me, puts me in a good position to make things happen,” Brannon said. “So it’s just as much the rest of the team as it is me.”
And the work never stops.
“When it’s raining, we have a baseball building that we constantly hit and train in,” Brannon said. “So we’re always doing something no matter the weather conditions are outside. We’re always practicing, training. I think that’s what sets us apart.”
The 2-A defending state champions came out of the blocks on fire to start the season and have not slowed down a bit. Batting ahead of Brannon in the lineup are two Division I recruits — Trey Way (Virginia Tech) and Hunter Atkins (UNC-Greensboro). Batting behind him in the cleanup spot in another UNC-Greensboro recruit — Braylen Hayes. Given that Hayes is batting .618 and is a slugger himself, pitching around Brannon isn't much of an option.
The RBIs kept piling up.
“When a guy has that much power, it’s really special to watch him swing the bat,” Smith said.
The Tigers did face a bit of a speed bump in the Hanahan Invitational in South Carolina during spring break. Though they lost a game, the Tigers took three out of four against some pretty decent competition.
Call it a dress rehearsal for the upcoming 2-A state playoffs.
“It helps us a lot,” Brannon said. “It's always good to see better arms and better competition, especially in another state. ... We faced challenges but that’s a positive when it comes to playing the game.”
Brannon is drawing the attention of pro scouts, who are showing up at his games on a regular basis. He’s very likely to be selected within the first 10 rounds of the Major League Draft, which his held in June.
And that will entail a decision.
“As of right now, I'm excited to go to Carolina,” Brannon said. “But whatever happens, happens.”
For now, Brannon will concentrate on winning more games and adding to his record.