MIDLAND- Randall High School’s dream athletic season continued into June as it was the Raider baseball team’s turn to stamp their mark on a historic moment by qualifying for the UIL Class 4A state baseball tournament for the first time since the 2007 season.
Randall shook off a Game 1 loss to Stephenville, 3-2, at Christensen Stadium on Friday, however, bounced back behind timely hitting and dominant pitching for a 2-0-win in Saturday’s Game 2, followed by a 6-0 shutout in a decisive Game 3 at Greenwood’s Rangers Field.
“This is a special group of players,” Randall head coach Cory Hamilton said. “They have an amazing chemistry. They’ve been playing together a long time and I couldn’t be prouder of what they accomplished.”
This is the first time for veteran coach Hamilton to make an appearance of his own in Austin. Hamilton has coached for 23 seasons accumulating an eye-popping 424 wins. The last 15 of those years have been at Randall where he’s won 366 games with this last one being the sweetest so far.
“This means the world to me,” said Hamilton, who is 366-155-3 all-time at Randall. “You just want a chance to play on a big stage. Years ago, before I got married, I would go work summer camps at the University of Texas. When you are down there working through the heat in June you think how nice it’d be to bring a team down and play for it all, and now I get to do that.”
The Raiders head to the UIL Class 4A state semifinals where they will play at either 1 p.m. or 4 p.m. on Wednesday at UFCU Disch-Falk Field on the campus of the University of Texas in Austin.
Randall (38-4 overall) had the pressure on coming into Saturday. There was no secret the Raiders where the heavy favorites out of Region I and expected to sweep Stephenville. The Yellowjackets (27-14-1) were able to shock Randall behind a 3-2 victory on Friday snapping the Raiders impressive 32-game win streak dating back to early March. Instead of panicking after their first postseason defeat, this Randall squad led by an extremely talented senior class pulled together.
“There was pressure and a lot of expectation on us,” Randall senior infielder Payton Bush said. “Stephenville broke are long win streak. But we didn’t care about that. We just wanted to come out and take care of business and play like we knew how to.”
Randall used two big innings in both wins to punch their ticket to the state tournament.
In Game 2 on Saturday, Randall and Stephenville were scoreless heading into the bottom of the sixth. That’s when the Raiders first rally of the day started when Dylan Ray delivered a two-run double scoring Mason Gilbert and Hagen Shedd. Those two runs stood up for the victory.
In Game 3, Randall had stranded five runners through four innings but caught a spark in the top of the fifth off a Carson Haffner lead-off triple. Bush then roped a single to left field plating Haffner putting Randall on the board up 1-0. Moments later, with the bases loaded, the sting came to the Yellowjackets in the form of Shedd who blasted a monumental grand slam to left center field as Randall’s lead busted wide open at 5-0.
“I was just trying to keep the momentum going,” Shedd said. “That really helped us break the game open. i Just wanted to do my part.”
Hamilton echoed Shedd’s comments.
“Carson’s triple was big,” Hamilton said. “That kind of got us going then the grand slam was huge. That really broke their back. I knew if we produced that would open the game up and make it a lot easier.”
Now that the hitting was taken care of the pitching has to be the focal point of what Randall accomplished on Saturday.
Behind the duo of Duncan Bowles and Logan Tice, Stephenville was handcuffed all afternoon tallying three total hits.
Bowles, the ace of the Raider staff, improved to a perfect 13-0 on the year delivering another stellar performance allowing only one hit in a complete game effort to even the series in the 2-0 shutout. Bowles kept Stephenville off balance racking up nine strikeouts as well as working himself out of a seventh inning jam getting three straight outs with runners at second and third.
In Game 3, Tice equaled Bowles’ effort. The senior side arm slinger worked a complete game of his own on only 74 pitches, allowing only four baserunners, two hits with eight K’s.
“We just let the defense work and do their jobs,” Bowles said. “They’ve done a great job all year and we trust them. That makes it easy for us to go out and pitch. I feel like I had a great rhythm going and Logan really did too. It shows the hard work is paying off.”
Inside the series
Randall’s Payton Bush had a strong series at the lead-off spot going a combined 4-for-8 with a double and a key RBI in Game 3. Shedd was also solid at the dish going 3-for-7 in two games on Saturday with a pair of doubles and the huge grand slam that set the tone for the series win.
In 20 innings pitched, the Randall staff of Carson Haffner, Duncan Bowles, and Logan Tice totaled 24 strikeouts and only two earned runs. Bowles and Tice threw back-to-back complete game shutouts.
A year to remember
This baseball state tournament appearance adds to an already prestigious athletic season that Randall High School has put together in 2022-2023. The Randall baseball team will try and join the Randall boys golf team, the Lady Raider volleyball team and the Randall team tennis squad as UIL Class 4A state champions.
The Randall boys’ basketball team qualified for the state tournament for the first time in school history, the boys wrestling team earned a bronze medal and individually, the spring tennis team as well as the track teams qualified multiple individuals to their respective state events.