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. He works his tail off every day and it paid off tonight.”
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.
Tigers coach Smith credited his players for having the focus and stamina to endure the marathon, but added that the large contingent of Randleman fans also played a role in winning the school’s first title since 2011.
“It’s almost 12 o’clock and the stands are still full,” he said. “It means a lot. The support throughout the city is unbelievable. The kids know it and they really feed off it. It’s a special place.
“I’m so proud of these young men, all of them,” he said. “They’ve worked so hard. It’s been a crazy year from start-to-finish.”