© 2024. Randolph Hub. All Rights Reserved.


Uwharrie Charter’s state championship team poses with coaches and family and fans who helped them reach a goal many had been dreaming about.   Photo by Johanna Painter

Uwarrie Charter triumphs

HOLLY SPRINGS — After a Game 1 win Friday night put the Uwharrie Charter Eagles varsity baseball team just one victory away from capturing the state 1-A baseball championship, Eagles’ coach Rob Shore said the key for action on Saturday was to make sure his players continued to focus on the right thing. Forget about everything going on outside the lines, just continue to focus on their team.


The  Eagles did just that Saturday at Ting Stadium and returned to UCA with their second state title in the past five years.


Brett Smith threw the second straight complete game by a UCA hurler and the Eagles, who were held to five hits Friday night, broke loose with a 12-hit attack, scoring eight times in the middle innings for an 8-1 victory over North Moore and a sweep of the best-of-three series.


The victory was the 17th in the past 18 games and gives UCA a final record of 22-10. It was the second baseball state championship in the 10-year history of the school, matching the one they captured in 2019 when this group of seniors were eighth graders. 


Saturday’s win came on the heels of a 2-1 victory In Game 1 the night before.


“Everything went numb,” UCA first-year head coach Rob Shore said shortly after the final out of Game 2. “I’m so excited for the guys more than anything. It’s great to win a state championship as a coach, but more than anything, these kids bought into everything I asked them to do. 


“To see it come to fruition, to see them win a state championship after I have been in their ear about it for the past nine months … . To see them enjoy it and be elated about it. And I wanted it for our seniors. They were eighth graders when the 2019 team won it and we were trying to get back and match that.”


They did. 


With two stellar route-going pitching performances, two incredible defensive efforts, a thrilling end to Game 1 and a dominant offensive effort in Game 2, the Eagles saw major contributions from everyone in all phases of the game. 


“This is amazing,” said sophomore Brett Smith, who allowed one run on five hits with two walks and two strikeouts in Saturday’s state title-clinching win. “I came out here and trusted my defense to have my back and they did.”


The Eagles’ defense was outstanding as they committed just one error in the series and that one could certainly have been ruled a hit. The outfielders made some outstanding plays throughout the series and the infielders did their part, making things quite easy for Game 1 starter Jake Hunter and Smith. Combined, the two starters fanned just six, meaning the Mustangs were very successful in putting the ball in play.


“Every scouting report I got on them said they don’t hurt themselves,” North Moore coach Billy Kennedy told The Pilot newspaper after Saturday’s setback. “They don’t. They give themselves opportunities to make plays, and we just didn’t get it done today. 


“I don’t want to take away from anything we’ve done this year. I’m walking out of here with my head held high.”


The Mustangs finished the season 22-10 in earning their very first state championship appearance.


There was plenty of celebration on the field, in the UCA dugout and in the stands after the final out was recorded.


“It’s surreal,” senior outfielder Peyton McCollum said. “Ever since I watched that team win the state championship, ever since I was a freshman, I wanted to make it to this spot right here and now that we did it, it’s surreal. Winning Game 1 really gave us a lot of confidence and we came out today more confident and relaxed.”


On Saturday, the Mustangs grabbed a 1-0 lead, just as they did the night before, when a double from Bradley Mauldin plated Ethan Dunlap. But just as they did the night before, the Eagles immediately answered.


Carter Brown, who was named the most valuable player, tripled and that started a four-run inning that featured a single by Hunter, a hit batter, a sacrifice bunt from McCollum and a key two-out, two-strike, two-run single from Ben Medinger to give UCA a 3-1 lead. The key hit came one pitch after umpires said Medinger successfully checked his swing on a pitch with two strikes. Walker Wilkins added an RBI hit for a 4-1 lead.


“We gave up a run and came right back and got the lead,” Shore said. “We were hitting the ball on the button, we just needed to find some gaps and we did.”


UCA added an RBI single from Landon Zephir in the fourth, a two-run single by Caleb Steed in the fifth and an RBI grounder from Grat Dalton in the sixth.


“This team has a lot of fight in them,” McCollum said. “We go down one, we go down three, we go down five, we are going to respond. We are not going to hang our heads. We come back in the dugout after a team scores and say we are going to get it right back.”


On Friday, Hunter and the Eagles pulled to within one win of the championship with the edge-of-your-seat 2-1 win. The Mustangs never quit, getting runners on first and third with one out in the seventh, but after a stolen base left first base open, Shore elected to intentionally walk Ty Allred, who was 3-for-3 in the game. That move paid off quite well as a double-play grounder ended the contest.


“I’m kind of glad to be off the field now,” Hunter said after throwing just 85 pitches in the win. “This defense is one of the best I have ever pitched in front of so I just went out and threw strikes and hoped they would hit it to my defenders and they would make plays.”


Dunlap, North Moore’s starting pitcher, was very effective as he held the high-powered UCA attack to five hits, retiring 12 of the final 13 batters he faced.


“Jake did an outstanding job and their guy was outstanding, too,” Shore said. “We had to put the ball in play. Who would have known that two runs would have won the game today? Kudos to Jake and the defense.”


NM scored first when Allred singled, stole second, went to third on a groundout and scored on an infield single from Elliott Furr. 


UCA answered back immediately as Caleb McDaniel led off the bottom of the third with a walk and McCollum singled. Both runners stole a base before Troy Carver and Medinger singled in runs.


“It helps to know if you are going to throw strikes, our boys are going to play defense,” Shore said of Hunter’s performance. “I don't think he was trying to blow it by anybody tonight. He was trying to locate, work on his off-speed and work on getting the ball in play for our guys to make plays. If you have that mindset on the mound, that you don't have to strike everyone out to get out an inning and you trust your defense every single game, it’s easier.”


That win gave UCA all the confidence it needed for the Game 2 victory.


“We continued to focus on us,” Shore said. “No matter who we are playing, focus on us. Focus on the game and focus on each other.”


And now the Eagles can focus on the state 1-A championship they won.