Randleman hits at another level in baseball playoff romps

RANDLEMAN – As the Class 2-A state playoffs began, Randleman’s baseball team cranked it up a notch.

The Tigers know what it takes this time of the year.

“We’ve got to keep up the energy,” senior second baseman Shawn Miller said. “We all know we’re good enough to be on the field.”

For the two-time defending state champions, the bats have awakened. With Friday night’s power display, it was reminiscent of a season ago – with mostly different guys taking the swings.

“More of what I expected throughout the year,” coach Jake Smith said of the offense. “Hopefully, we’re hitting our stride and continue to swing it.”

Five home runs helped in the second-seeded Tigers’ 13-3 victory against 15th-seeded Forbush.

So confidence could be soaring again for Randleman after a shaky stretch late in the regular season. The Tigers (22-4) next meet No. 7 seed East Davidson (20-4) on Tuesday night.

“It’s something about this time of the year,” catcher Caleb Dunn said. “We’re confident and we’re trying to reach our goal.”

The latest power display against Forbush (21-8) began early. Starting pitcher Austin Lemons belted a two-run homer to cap the three-run first inning.

“Every time he gets on the mound, he helps himself,” Smith said.

Lemons worked through five shutout innings, holding Forbush to two hits while striking out seven.

By then, the Tigers held an 8-0 lead.

In the fourth, Dunn’s ground-rule double knocked in one run. Then Hunter Atkins hammered a full-count pitch over the fence in center field off reliever Riley Campbell for a grand slam. It was quite the conclusion to a 13-pitch at-bat.

“The joy came really from fighting with two strikes, not really necessarily the grand slam,” Atkins said. “Really fighting with two strikes, no matter where the ball goes. Two strikes and get a big hit like that, I was definitely excited.”

Forbush produced three runs in the sixth with just one hit off reliever Drake Purvis, leaving the bases loaded.

Then with one out in the bottom of the inning, Randleman got going again. Atkins, Seth Way and Lemons hit back-to-back-to-back long balls.

“Those were no-doubters,” Smith said.

Then, per the script, it was Chesney Welch’s turn and he hammered a two-run double to right field to end the game via the mercy rule. He has had game-ending hits twice in a four-game stretch.

The production is coming throughout the batting order.

“We’re competing even more and getting hits and coming through,” Atkins said. “Anybody can do the job.”

That has been another encouraging sign. John Kirkpatrick had three hits vs. Forbush.

“I think the bottom of the lineup had real good at-bats,” Smith said of Friday night’s effort.

In the first round last Tuesday, Randleman ripped No. 31 seed Reidsville 17-2. Way and Purvis pitched.

The Tigers have allowed less than 2.5 runs per game this year. The pitching has been a staple.

“They work so hard,” Dunn said. “It’s paying off for them.”