Randleman racks up baseball recruits

RANDLEMAN — As if the past season wasn’t good enough for Randleman’s baseball players, the offseason has been productive in many ways as well.

The Tigers, who are fresh off a Class 2-A state championship won in late June, have been racking up college offers and subsequent commitments.

“It has been amazing,” catcher Brooks Brannon said. “I don’t think the state championship alone did it. All the guys are grinders. It’s awesome.”

Brannon had committed to North Carolina prior to the latest season. Others in the now-senior class have been accepting offers in the weeks since the Tigers won the title.

Shortstop/pitcher Trey Way is going to Virginia Tech, outfielder/pitcher Braylen Hayes has picked UNC Greensboro, pitcher Ryan White is headed to Western Carolina and outfielder Kaden Ethier selected Montreat.

“Anytime you play on a winning team, you’re going to get seen,” Randleman coach Jake Smith said. “It’s almost like it’s competition within the team. That’s a good thing.”

The plethora of recruits has been good for the Tigers. Despite the team’s winning ways, it came during a period with some twists.

“The whole COVID pandemic has made it a challenge to be seen,” Smith said. “That was pretty frustrating for the kids, trying to make contact with the college coaches, who couldn’t come see them.”

Brannon, who’s ranked among the top 25 players in the class in North Carolina, played through some back ailments during the past spring season. His presence provides the Tigers with a mature influence amid all the talent, Smith said.

“He loves baseball and he does the right things,” he said.

Brannon said he felt a good connection with the North Carolina program.

“They have a tradition of winning,” he said.

Brannon didn’t play summer ball as he rested his back. He plans to be on the field for autumn tournaments. He plays for 5 Star National, a Georgia-based travel team.

Way is rated a few spots behind Brannon in some state-wide prospect listings.

White threw a no-hitter in the decisive Game 3 of the state championship series against R-S Central. So it was no wonder he drew attention from college scouts.

“Ryan is Ryan,” Brannon said. “That’s why we love him.”

Two more Randleman players in the Class of 2022 – outfielder Bryson Sweatt and first baseman Gus Shelton – could receive offers as well, Smith said. Sweatt had a recent setback with a broken ankle during a football scrimmage.

Smith said Sweatt and Ethier had to wait their time. They moved to the varsity for the 2021 season and made immediate impacts.

“It was pretty cool to watch,” Smith said. “We’ll be senior-heavy this year.”

But there are Randleman underclassmen with credentials as well.

Third baseman Hunter Atkins, the 2021 PAC-7 Player of the Year as a sophomore, figures to draw attention as his coach considers him “Mr. Clutch” based on production last season. Left-handed pitcher Drake Purvis, who’ll be a sophomore in the spring, is committed to Miami.

None of team’s 2021 seniors has landed with college programs, Smith said.

By Bob Sutton

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