NCHSAA crowns high school baseball champs

Perquimans, Randleman, J.H. Rose and Fuquay-Varina all won state titles

Randleman’s Kaden Ethier leaps on top of the dogpile after the final out of the Tigers' 2A state championship clinching win Saturday against R-S Central. (PJ Ward-Brown/ For the North State Journal)

Ryan White had only one thing in mind when he took the mound for the final inning of Saturday’s NCHSAA 2A championship series finale at Burlington Athletic Stadium.

Win the state title for his Randleman High School baseball team.

Finishing off the no-hitter was just a bonus.

The junior right-hander struck out 11 and walked only two while pitching the Tigers to a 4-0 victory against Rutherfordton-Spindale Central that clinched the second state championship in school history.

White’s masterful performance provided an exclamation point to a long day that saw Randleman bounce back from a loss earlier in the day to win the decisive game of the best-of-three series.

“Honestly, I wasn’t even thinking about it,” White said of his no-hitter. “My goal was just to win the state championship and do the best I could.”

The Tigers (19-2) scored all their runs in the bottom of the third. Kaden Ethier got things started with a one-out single to center before Owen Strickland walked and Trey Way loaded the bases with a single.

Hunter Atkins plated the first two runs with a single up the middle against R-S Central starter Hayden Wheeler before Brooks Brannon doubled in two more off reliever Kael Snethen.

That was all the offense White needed as he retired the final nine Hilltoppers in order over the final three innings.

He got the final out on a grounder to short, setting off a joyous dogpile in the middle of the diamond.

“It was awesome,” Randleman coach Jake Smith said of White, whose no-hitter was the second one thrown in a state final series game at Burlington this year. Carter Boyd of Reagan High School threw his in Game 1 of the 4A series against Fuquay-Varina.

“I knew about the third or fourth inning, he was really feeling it,” Smith said. “He had all three pitches working. He was commanding both sides of the plate. I’m so happy for him.”

Randleman had a chance to close out the series earlier Saturday after winning Game 1 9-5 on Friday on the strength of a seven-run third inning rally.

But despite a solid pitching performance from Way, R-S Central (17-3) forced the deciding game with a 2-1 victory. Snethen provided the winning margin with a tie-breaking home run to left in the bottom of the third.

The teams returned to the field several hours later for a game that ended just before midnight.

4A Champion: Fuquay-Varina

The Bengals (16-4) were no-hit by Boyd in Game 1 but bounced back in a big way by compiling 25 runs and 32 hits over the final two games of the series on Saturday to win their second 4A title since 2018.

Fifteen of those hits came in a 12-1 title-clinching victory against Reagan (17-4) in a game that was delayed for just over an hour in the bottom of the third. F-V had already built a five-run lead by then, scoring two in the first and three more in the second, with Will Orr driving in a run in each of the rallies.

Unfazed by Boyd’s dominance, highlighted by 11 strikeouts, the Bengals evened the series with a 13-3 win Saturday morning. Parker McGraw led a 17-hit attack by going 3 for 4 with a homer and five RBIs. F-V’s Ryan McCrystal was named the championship series MVP.

3A Champion: J.H. Rose

It took three days, several delays and a venue change, but the Ramparts (16-4) persevered to earn a two-game sweep of Cox Mill (16-5) to earn their seventh state title and first since 2008.

Despite being outhit 7-5, Rose took advantage of five Chargers errors to pick up an 8-1 win in the series opener on Friday at Fayetteville’s J.P. Riddle Stadium. Lee Watson earned a complete game victory on the mound by striking out seven and allowing only one earned run.

Following a washout on Saturday, the series was moved to Terry Sanford High School. But the result was the same, with the Ramparts winning 9-4.

Cox Mill got off to a 3-0 lead in the final game, keyed by a home run from Kyle Cassell. But Rose stormed back with five runs in the fourth on RBIs by Wade Jarman, Cam Greenway, Caleb May, Cole Watkins and Danny Sadler to take a lead it wouldn’t relinquish.

Sadler was named the series MVP.

1A Champion: Perquimans

Weather also played a role in the 2A series, which was suspended in the third inning of Game 1 on Friday. East Surry led 2-0 at the time on RBIs by Evan McCreary and Anthony Ayers. But Perquimans (18-2) rallied to tie the game when it resumed on Sunday at South View High in Hope Mills.

The teams went to extra innings before Jackson Russell drove home Tanner Thach with the winning run in the bottom of the 10th. Thach led off the inning with a double. He also pitched the final three innings for the Pirates, striking out seven and allowing only one hit.

Series MVP Thach also closed out Game 2, a 7-5 Perquimans win, by striking out the final two batters in the bottom of the seventh with the tying runs in scoring position. The championship was the Pirates’ first since Hall of Famer Catfish Hunter pitched it to the title in 1963.