SUMTER -- There are certain plays teams work on throughout the season -- squeeze bunt plays, base stealing plays or delayed steal plays -- that might never get used.
"But it's always nice to have them in your back pocket if you need them," Wilson Hall head coach Tommy Jones said. "Those types of plays and taking extra bases and things like that are what championship baseball is all about."
The Barons used a couple of those plays, some timely hitting and solid outings from Gordon Owens and Chase Belk on the mound to secure a 6-2 victory against Hilton Head Prep on Tuesday at Baron Field in the opening game of a SCISAA Class 3-A state playoff semifinal series.
Wilson Hall (21-6) will look to secure a berth in the SCISAA championship series today when the two teams meet on Hilton Head Island at 4:30 p.m.
"You don't expect an offensive showcase when it's this deep in the playoffs and the teams are this good," Jones said. "We swept them in a doubleheader earlier in the year, but they were a different team then. This was much closer than a 6-2 ballgame.
"We were able to execute some things with the bunt and moving some runners over. We had some guys come up with hits in big spots. We were able to execute. They had chances, too, but couldn't convert."
The game turned twice in the fifth inning with the Barons leading 1-0 on a Kemper Patton RBI single. First, after being held hitless by Owens for the first four innings, the Dolphins (18-5) finally got to the Barons' ace right-hander. A leadoff walk and a single by Greg Warren gave Prep runners at the corners with no outs.
Owens came close to getting out of the inning with no damage after a groundout and strikeout, but Kevin Campbell's two-run double put the Dolphins up 2-1.
Warren, Prep's starting pitcher, had settled down after giving up three hits in the first inning and had only allowed one since. But back-to-back one-out walks in the fifth spelled the end for the Dolphins left-hander, who went 4 1-3 innings and gave up three earned runs on four hits with four strikeouts and four walks.
"He was starting on three days rest and had pitched a good game until then," Prep coach Lew Kent said. "He kind of ran out of gas at that point. Then they were able to execute their offense. Give them credit for that."
With Jake Martin pitching in relief, the Barons got an RBI single from John Patrick Sears to even the game at 2-2. After another Patton hit, his third of the night, William Kinney dropped down a perfectly execute squeeze bunt that scored Tyler Pannell. Kinney was safe at first when no one covered the bag.
Sears scored on a passed ball and the Barons got another tally after Kinney got himself caught in a rundown. He was tagged out, but not before Patton touched home to make it a 5-2 Wilson Hall lead.
"That was big," Jones said of the three-run lead. "I think at that point it's a ball game; it really puts pressure on the other team when they know they've only got so many outs left to make up the difference."
The Barons got their final run in much the same way in the sixth. William Creech reached on a fielder's choice, took second on an error then stole third and home.
Meanwhile the Dolphins were unable to get to Owens again. Owens pitched around a 1-out walk in the first and a leadoff walk in the fourth before Prep finally got to him. A leadoff single in the sixth was erased by a double play, and he kept a runner on third from scoring with an inning-ending strikeout.
Owens finished with seven punchouts and three walks. He allowed two earned runs on five hits in 6-plus innings.
"This is the second time we've faced him this year, and he's one of the best we've seen," Kent said. "He was throwing all three pitches -- fastball, curveball, slider. That's tough for a hitter to face."
After a leadoff single by Warren in the seventh, Owens was lifted for Chase Belk. Belk got two quick outs before a hit batsman and a walk loaded the bases. Belk closed out the threat with a groundout to short.
Aside from Patton's three hits, Sears collected two base knocks and scored a run for the Barons. Parker McDuffie walked twice and Pannell doubled and scored two runs.