RANDLEMAN – A four-night stretch full of variety for Randolph County Post 45 also had a certain consistent component.
The American Legion baseball team won each of its games last week. That included stiff non-league tests and its Area 3 Northern Division opener.
Post 45 boosted its record to 11-1 entering this week. Then Monday night’s game at Greensboro was rained out.
The showdown last week came with Rowan County Post 342, with Post 45 winning 4-3 on Friday night at Salisbury. Tanner Marsh provided a home run and a run-scoring double and Pierce Leonard scored two runs. Drew Harmon, Robert Garner and Hunter Atkins combined for the Randolph County pitching.
Rowan County won 19 of its first 22 games, with two of the defeats coming to Randolph County.
Saturday night’s divisional opener resulted in a 10-0 victory against Greensboro Post 53 at Randleman High School. Starting pitcher Drake Purvis threw four no-hit innings with nine strikeouts.
Marsh and Atkins hit back-to-back home runs in the sixth inning. Atkins finished with three hits.
Earlier in the week, Post 45 came off a five-day layoff and defeated visiting Mocksville-Davie County Post 54 by 8-2, with Marsh tripling and scoring two runs and Tyler Parks driving in two runs. Braxton Walker threw five shutout innings with 11 strikeouts and one walk.
Post 45 went to Buies Creek and topped Wayne County 6-4 with Parks notching three hits and knocking in two runs. Samuel Asbill, Austin Lemons and Marsh did the pitching.
Randleman’s Austin Lemons had a big night on the mound and at the plate in the PAC Tournament final. (Bob Sutton/Randolph Record)
RANDLEMAN – There was so much going on with Randleman’s baseball team in the Piedmont Athletic Conference Tournament final.
Everything from Drake Purvis making his much-anticipated season debut to the Tigers racking up their 20th victory of the year.
Yet pretty much nothing could overshadow Austin Lemons.
The senior who mostly waited in the wings behind a stacked roster from a year ago emerged as the pitching and hitting standout in Randleman’s 4-0 victory against visiting Trinity on Thursday night.
“This is the biggest game I’ve probably ever pitched in my life and I feel like I handled it really well out there. I could trust my team. We got some runs. I knew right when we got those runs, I felt good about it.”
Make no mistake, the Tigers got their runs because of Lemons, who hit a two-run homer and later doubled to set up another run,
So he went from having a up-close view of Randleman’s record-setting 2022 season as a reserve to becoming one of the main participants for this year’s conference titlist.
“It definitely feels rewarding after working a lot,” Lemons said. “It’s not just for me. Hunter (Atkins) and Seth (Way) are the two that were in the lineup last year. They’ve been killing it this year. Everybody else had to fill really big roles and I think we’re doing a really good job of that.”
Lemons, a UNC Greensboro signee as a pitcher, must have been paying good attention last year.
“He has worked for this,” Randleman coach Jake Smith said. “He has seen people being successful in front of him.”
Lemons said he grew as a player last summer and in the fall on the travel ball circuit. Combined with what he learned from watching his former Randleman teammates, he applied it all to his final high school season.
“I feel like I just stuck through the process. I came out here and practiced just the same as everybody else,” Lemons said. “I took a lot of time to learn watching these guys on the field and I think it really carried over to this year.”
So that’s why the Tigers felt good about sending Lemons to the mound for the tournament final after he tossed two shutout innings in relief in Tuesday night’s eight-inning escape against Providence Grove in the semifinals.
“He competed and threw strikes,” Smith said. “His body language, his presence. He’s very focused.”
He gave Randleman six innings vs. Trinity, allowing two hits and a walk with eight strikeouts.
Lemons relies mostly on fastballs and sliders. He said his control tended to be a glitch in past years, but that’s an area where he made significant improvement.
“I definitely feel like I’ve always had some of the talent there,” he said. “There’s potential, but I really had to work. I feel the biggest thing that changed for me is my mental approach, just being more confident.”
Randleman (20-4), the two-time defending Class 2-A state champion, will hold a high seed when the state playoffs begin next week.
Perfect inning for Purvis
Now, they’ll have Purvis ready to contribute. He hadn’t pitched in competition in about 10 months because of elbow surgery.
The junior left-hander entered in the seventh – though Lemons stayed loose on the side – and pitched a perfect inning.
“A couple of days ago we knew this would be the night,” Purvis said. “Slowly returning back. This is what you want. The place was packed, a big crowd.”
Second baseman Shawn Miller fielded a grounder toward the hole and snagged a line drive for the first two outs before a called third strike ended the game. Purvis celebrated with an emotion-filled prance toward the dugout.
“Wanted to see some live hitters in game in game situations,” he said. “Have that playoff mode. I’m used to this. It’s not my first rodeo and definitely not my last, either.”
It pretty much went by design for the Tigers. Purvis pitched a no-hitter in last June’s Game 1 of the state championship series vs. Farmville Central.
“We had to get him in and see him, and it was a positive,” Smith said. “He was amped up, for sure. I don’t blame him, I would be, too.”
Some offense, too
In part because of Randleman center fielder Way’s diving catch in right-center field that likely saved a run to end the top of the fourth, neither team had scored. In the bottom of the inning, Atkins drew a lead-off walk and scored on Lemons’ second home run of the season.
The lead grew to 3-0 on Chesney Welch’s first varsity home run when he led off the bottom of the fifth with a blast to right-center field.
“I’m just getting out of my spring training phase,” Welch said of bolstering his production. “Sometimes they feel a certain way, and that (swing) was one of them.”
Soon after, Trinity starter Ethan Willard was gone. The Tigers loaded the bases with one out, but didn’t score again in the fifth.
Lemons’ lead-off double in the sixth resulted in the game’s final run after a couple of defensive miscues.
Randleman posted its first shutout in an 11-game span.
Trinity (15-10) failed to score in the tournament final for the second year in a row. Last year, the Bulldogs bounced back and reached the fourth round of the state playoffs.
Trinity used Andon Simmons’ two-hitter in a 4-0 semifinal victory against visiting Uwharrie Charter Academy with Landon Mowery and Brody Little both homering. The Bulldogs needed a fifth-run sixth inning to rally past seventh-seeded Eastern Randolph 7-5 in the quarterfinals.
Here’s Drake Purvis of Randleman after his no-hitter against Whiteville to begin the Class 2-A state finals. (Bob Sutton/Randolph Record)
BURLINGTON – Randleman’s baseball team wants to repeat its Class 2-A state championship this weekend and the Tigers were in a reminiscing mood based on Game 1 of the title series.
How does another no-hitter sound?
That’s two in a row in the state finals on the same field, dating to last June.
Drake Purvis’ masterful 12-strikeout performance boosted the Tigers in a 10-0 victory against Whiteville on Friday night at Burlington Athletic Stadium.
There was yet another state record set by catcher Brooks Brannon as his high school career winds down. He naturally deflected the impact of his contributions.
“The fact that I’m back here again – whether I went 3-for-4 or 0-for-4, I’m just happy to be here,” Brannon said. “The energy here, I love it.”
Game 2 is at 2 p.m. Saturday, with a decisive Game 3, if necessary, coming at either 5 or 8 p.m. Senior Ryan White, who threw a no-hitter in the winner-take-all 2021 final against Rutherfordton-Spindale Central, is set to be on the mound.
Game 1 ended via the mercy rule on Bryson Sweatt’s sacrifice fly with one out in the fifth.
Randleman (32-1) is unscored upon in seven games in the state playoffs, though only one of those has gone the full seven innings because of the mercy rule. Whiteville (23-4) had a 21-game winning streak snapped.
Brannon went 3-for-4, with the middle of those hits a second-inning single to left field with two outs. That was his state-record 66th hit of the season to go with the single-season RBI mark set earlier this spring and tying the home run record in the regional finals. The previous hits record was set by Shawn Gallagher of New Hanover in 1995.
Purvis, a sophomore left-hander, could have been unnerved when Bud Baldwin, the first batter of the game, stood at second base after third baseman Hunter Atkins’ two-base throwing error – the first fielding miscue by the Tigers in the playoffs.
“It wasn’t happening,” Purvis said of potentially allowing a run.
The circumstance didn’t faze him.
“Especially since it’s always in the back of your head, particularly the shutouts in a row,” Brannon said. “Not wanting a run to score and ruin it. The fact that he just doesn’t let it get to him is incredible.”
Even though the largely veteran group of Tigers had been in the state finals a year ago, coach Jake Smith said the reaction to the early glitch was encouraging.
“It’s baseball and you have to expect you’re going to have some of that adversity,” he said. “It was great to see how these kids handled that.”
Purvis, who walked one and hit a batter, said he sensed he was in good form while warming up.
“Arm felt good,” he said. “Ball is exploding out of my hand.”
Meanwhile, the Tigers scored in all five innings.
“We like seeing new teams every week,” Randleman second baseman Kaden Ethier said. “We like seeing new arms. We capitalize every time we see new arms. We did what we always do.”
Two of the Tigers’ hardest hit balls came right away, with Trey Way drilling the first pitch in the bottom of the first inning for a triple. One out later, Brannon belted a double over center fielder J.T. Todd’s head.
While escaping potential trouble in the top of the inning had the large contingent of Randleman fans worked into a frenzy, by the time Way and Brannon did their early damage the grandstand was shaking and it was a preview of more noise to come.
The three runs in the second inning came with a rally constructed entirely with two outs. Ethier followed White’s single with a double and they both scored when Way’s fly to deep right field was dropped. Atkins then drove in Way with a single.
Ethier roped a two-run single in the third, making it 6-0. Brannon, Braylen Hayes and Sweatt provided consecutive doubles in the fourth before another run scored on an infield error.
Trey Way and his teammates react to his game-sealing home run Friday night against East Surry. (PJ Ward-Brown / Randolph Record)
Tigers ruin showdown, head to regional final
RANDLEMAN – The fourth round of the Class 2-A state playoffs shaped up as an epic showdown between two one-loss baseball teams.
As the national anthem played, the line at the entrance gate had dozens of fans waiting to get in – and stayed that way for quite a while.
The scene at Joe Brookshire Field had all the makings of a classic.
Then Randleman did its thing – again.
The Tigers took down another opponent with authority, its fourth consecutive run-rule victory in the state playoffs. This time, it was a 10-0 decision against fourth-seeded East Surry.
“We’re not surprised,” sophomore left fielder Seth Way said. “We’re just having fun for now.”
Older brother Trey Way, a senior shortstop, hammered two home runs, including the game-clinching blast to the opposite field over the right-field fence on the second pitch of the bottom of the fifth.
“They’re a great team,” Trey Way said. “We just came out and we just swung it. We threw it. We threw strikes. And we took care of business.”
As usual, because it all seemed familiar.
“A great atmosphere,” Randleman coach Jake Smith said. “Our guys just love coming out here and playing when it’s like this. We just go into games trying to compete the best we can.”
Top-seeded Randleman (29-1) takes on No. 15 seed Community School of Davidson (17-6), which rallied to top visiting Trinity 6-5 on Friday night, in a best-of-3 regional final. Game 1 is set for Tuesday night at Randleman, while the Tigers go on the road for Thursday’s Game 2. If a third game is needed, it will be Friday or Saturday at Randleman.
The Tigers didn’t score in the first inning of the East Surry game, then went to work with Seth Way’s solo homer – his fourth long ball of the season – and Trey Way’s three-run shot in the second.
“Keep the gas pedal down,” right fielder Bryson Sweatt said. “That’s the difference between the good teams and the great teams. I don’t see anybody coming close to us if we play our baseball.”
Randleman knows the deal on ending games early.
A two-out throwing error provided two more runs in the third. Gus Shelton’s fly into shallow right field with two outs in the fourth plated two more when miscommunication from the Cardinals (24-2) resulted in a double, followed by Ryan White’s RBI single. Sweatt’s double was another key hit earlier in the inning.
Trey Way capped it in the next inning, marking his second two-homer, four-RBI outing of the week. That was the Tigers’ single-season state record 56th home run.
“When we stick to our approach and our pitchers get out there and throw strikes and do what they do, it’s never out of the possibility of run-ruling any team we play,” Trey Way said. “If we just do what we do and play how we play, we can get it done.”
Drake Purvis notched a five-inning shutout for the third week in a row despite giving up a game-opening single to Luke Bowman. In the fourth, a hit batter and double allowed East Surry to threaten, but Purvis struck out the next three batters.
Randleman is unscored upon in the state playoffs and for the last five games overall.
The Tigers began the week with a 17-0 trouncing of No. 25 seed Mount Pleasant in the third round with Seth Way providing four of the team’s 16 hits. Hunter Atkins, who knocked in four runs, Brooks Brannon, who drove in three, and Braylen Hayes all homered. Trey Way scored four times, while Atkins and Shelton both scored three runs. White pitched the first four innings without allowing a hit and striking out eight before Seth Way worked the last inning.