Bishop England head coach Mike Darnell

Bishop England is back in the state championship mix with a veteran cast. File photo

Bishop England coach Mike Darnell spent much of the regular season trying to figure out which buttons to push with his baseball team.

Now that the playoffs are here, Darnell has decided to lay off the buttons a bit, and the Bishops seem to be responding.

Sophomore pitcher Gunnar Finneseth shut down Wade Hampton over the final two innings, and Bishop England took a 6-3 victory over the Red Devils on Saturday at Father Kelly Field on Daniel Island.

The Bishops (14-13) will travel Monday to Loris, a 6-1 winner over Dillon on Saturday night in the Class AA Lower State tournament.

Bishop England played a much cleaner game against Wade Hampton, committing no errors, than it did in last week's district title games against Academic Magnet.

"We've changed our lineup eight million times and moved people all over the place," said Darnell, who led the Bishops to the state finals last year. "I was on people's behind non-stop, and our kids didn't respond. Then the playoffs came and I decided to back off some, and they've played a little bit looser. We tightened up a little bit today at times, but in general, we are having more fun."

Finneseth (3-3) pitched the final four innings in relief of starter Edward Bolchoz, giving up two runs. Wade Hampton got the potential tying run to the plate in the seventh before Finneseth got the final out on a come-backer to the mound.

"We told Edward and Gunnar earlier in the week, it's the two of them," Darnell said. "They are backing each other up and if one struggles, the other one is coming in. We are struggling out of the pen right now, but those two have been pretty good."

The Bishops scored twice in the first inning, on an RBI grounder by Harrison Boals and a sacrifice fly by Ryan McManus. After Chandler Sambets singled in the second, pinch-runner Lucas Windham stole second and third and scored on Reed Fosberry's grounder for a 3-1 lead.

Wade Hampton cut it to 3-2 in the fourth, but the Bishops got the run back in the bottom of the inning. They loaded the bases on a single by Griffin Herbert, a walk and an error, and a walk to Jonathan Browning forced in a run for a 4-2 lead.

Wade Hampton scored in the fifth top get to within 4-3, but BE iced the game with two runs in the sixth. Paul Provost singled, was bunted to second by Browning and scored on an error, and Jeffrey Brown's RBI single made it 6-3.

The Bishops are two wins away from a return trip to the state finals, but it won't be easy, Darnell said.

"We worked really hard today -- on the base paths, in the dugout, we really worked hard," he said. "And that gives you a chance all the time."