Impressive Randall one step away from UIL state baseball tourney after sweep of Wichita Falls High


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Randall’s Payton Bush makes the tag on a Wichita Falls High runner during a Class 4A regional semifinal clash at Hodgetown on Saturday. [Roy Wheeler/ Press Pass Sports]
Shortstop Payton Bush making an unassisted double play.

Second baseman Logan Tice’s two hits, a run scored and sweeter than honey backhand play for an out.

Back-to-back doubles over outfielders’ heads by Hagen Shedd and Dylan Ray for an early 1-0 lead.

Undefeated pitcher Duncan Bowles (12-0) dealing on the mound for a complete game, giving up three hits, striking out eight, allowing no base runner past second base and passing the 100-strikeout mark for the season.

Run a comb through these 2023 Randall Raiders on Saturday and there were no tangles in their game.

Randall won its 32nd game in a row Saturday closing out the Region I-4A semifinals with a 6-0 win over a record-setting Wichita Falls High (Old High) squad before a loud and Raiders-friendly crowd of 2,500 at the gorgeous setting for baseball that is Hodgetown.

Randall’s 6-0 Saturday win, backed with Friday’s 16-1 victory over Old High in Wichita Falls, completed a series sweep of this best-of-three regional semifinal.

“We just do our business,” said senior Bush of the Raiders improving to 8-0 and sweeping their fourth series. “Everybody has bought in. Nobody wants to be anywhere else. It’s so fun being apart of this team.”

Old High ends its season at 21-16 and with something to brag about. This was the first time in school history Old High had reached the regional semis in baseball.

Old High coach Kyle Sims heaped praise on a Raiders bunch outscoring his Coyotes 22-1 over two games.

“We have been fortunate to take advantage of teams’ mistakes in the playoffs,” Sims said. “They didn’t give us anything. They earned everything they got and they are a very talented team. They are going to be hard for anybody to beat.”

The Randall Raiders celebrate after sweeping Wichita Falls High in the Class 4A regional semifinals on Saturday at Hodgetown. [Roy Wheeler/ Press Pass Sports]
No. 3-ranked Randall (36-3) now sits two wins away from making the schools’ first trip to the UIL state baseball tournament since 2007.

The Raiders will meet Stephenville in the Region I-4A finals in a best-of-3 series starting Wednesday at a time and place to be determined.

Randall coach Cory Hamilton said his team prides itself on pitching and defense, and an offense which always seems to produce at the right time.

“With this offense you wait around long enough we are going to score some runs,” said Hamilton, his team scoring three of its six runs with two outs. “When we finally opened it up and started scoring some runs, what a fun game to watch. Man, and our defense is playing at a level that I think we will need them at. … if they play like what we are seeing I really like our chances.”

Randall didn’t bust out a big inning Saturday in the 6-0 win but was able to keep the pressure on Old High starter TJ McCraw (11-4) putting runners on base in five of its six offensive innings.

The Raiders scored single runs in the second and fourth inning on RBIs from Ray and Mason Gilbert, then put Old High away with a pair of runs in each the fifth and sixth innings.

Kaden Juraez plated Bush in the fifth inning making it 3-0 when he grounded up the middle and forced an error from Old High reliable shortstop Blake Vanderburg.

Then Juarez scored himself for a 4-0 lead when Blaine Brannon launched a double to center – one of four doubles on the day for Randall.

In the sixth, with the way Bowles was pitching, Randall simply adding the icing on this one scoring two more runs. It was Bush singling home pinch hitter Carson Haffner (who had walked) and Juarez doubled to center with two outs easily scoring Bush.

“We just stick to our routine and have kept with it all year,” said Juarez, who reached base three times and led Randall in RBI with two. “This crowd was amazing. Our crowd showed up and it’s really special to play at home.”

Matching Juarez with a team-high two hits for Randall was Tice. Tice had picked up the pitching victory on Friday in the 16-1 win keeping Old High hitters at bay with some nasty sidearm stuff.

Tice wasn’t on the mound Saturday but was in the mix a lot singling and scoring in the third, singling in the fifth, then flashing the leather in top of the fourth. Tice  backhanded a one-hop missile off the bat of Tate Milstead who just shook his head after being thrown out at first.

“You know, just close your eyes and pray and hope you get it,” Tice joked. “We knew today we had to just put the ball in play and put pressure on their defense and when you put pressure on the defense like we did they make mistakes, and it produces runs.”

Randall’s Duncan Bowles tossed a complete game against Wichita Falls High on Saturday to complete the sweep. [Roy Wheeler/ Press Pass Sports]
While Randall’s offense produced with eight hits, four walks and a hit batter, one run was enough for Randall ace Bowles.

Bowles was simply on his game keeping Old High hitters frustrated with his good control. The tall righty allowed Old High six base runners all game, three hits, struck out the side in the fifth inning and no runner past second base.

Also, when he struck out Milstead in the first inning it was his 100th strikeout of the season producing a standing ovation from the Raiders fans.

“I just let my defense work,” Bowles said. “I have a great group behind me and I love watching them play.”

Bowles, who is headed to Amarillo College next year where Hodgetown will be his home, said the win was more important than the 100th strikeout.

“I really don’t care about personal accolades like my guy Carson Haffner said before, I just want to win,” Bowles said. “We are one more step closer to that state championship and that’s all that matters.”

Randall coach Hamilton said what Bowles has accomplished in 2023 should be applauded over and over.

“Striking out 100 is a big deal,” said Hamilton, a pitcher in his college days at West Texas A&M. “He’s won 12 games and is 12-0. Anybody winning 10 games in a high school season is special. It shows how dominate he is and plus he throws to two good catchers that help get him in the strike zone. He’s the epitome of a team guy.”

Nobody can argue against Randall continuing Saturday to be quite a team. That comes with the territory when one runs its winning streak into rare air at 32 in a row and climbed one step up the playoff ladder closer to that coveted trip to Austin and the UIL state baseball tournament.

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