PARKERSBURG -Parkersburg South won't burn anybody with the longball.
Instead, the Patriots' success is based on small-ball. They force the defense to make plays and create havoc on the basepaths.
That philosophy will be put into play this evening when sixth-ranked South (25-11) travels to Nitro to meet the seventh-ranked Wildcats (24-9) in a Class AAA, Region 4 semifinal set for a 6:30 p.m. first pitch.
The two schools met twice during the regular season with each team winning on its home field.
"We have enough speed that if we put the ball in play, limit our strikeouts and make them field the ball on grounders and line drives then we have a shot," South coach Matt Null said.
Having suffered one loss to Parkersburg High School at sectionals, South had their backs against the wall but responded with consecutive victories in convincing fashion and advanced to the regional semifinals for the first time since coach Null took over the program five years ago.
South starting pitcher Brad Brubaker walked three batters and failed to record an out in his postseason debut then responded two days later and earned the sectional-clinching victory by limiting the Big Reds to two hits in a five-inning, complete game effort.
"We told Brad to look at that first game as a learning experience," Null said.
Nitro's featured player is Korey Dunbar, who has signed to play for the University of North Carolina next season. Dunbar leads the Wildcats with a .453 batting average and eight home runs. His support staff includes teammates Dylan Slack (.405, 37 RBIs, 11 stolen bases), Evan Eich (.352, 12 stolen bases) and Ryan McDonough (28 RBIs, 22 stolen bases).
Even though Dunbar was recruited as a catcher, on the mound he has been just as lethal. In just 40 2/3 innings of work, he has struck out 70 and carries a 0.52 earned-run average.
The pitching doesn't stop there with the likes of Tyler Barton (6-1), Kip Brewer (4-0, 1.73 ERA) and Ryan McDonough (8-1, 2.33).
"With Nitro, they always hit for a lot of power," Null said. "They have one dominant arm, and the other guys throw very well."
South's arsenal of pitchers consists of Jordan Braniff (seven wins, 2.88 ERA), Wes Mitchem (six wins, 3.10 ERA), Brubaker (five wins, 3.37 ERA), A.J. Easter (four wins, 1.01 ERA) and Clayton Cottrille (two wins).
Offensively for the Patriots, Dustic Helmic leads the attack with a .376 batting average, 26 RBIs and seven extra base hits. Clay Walters' 27 RBIs is tops among the Patriots, while Hunter Hamilton, who is dealing with a turf toe injury and may not be available for tonight's game, ranks second with a .333 batting average.
Practically the entire South batting order possesses speed. Braxton Johnson's 19 steals leads the club. In addition to banging out a team-high five doubles and two triples, Jacob Wilcox has 14 steals to his credit.
A South victory against Nitro would mean a home game at Hank Greenburg Field on Thursday against the winner of tonight's Region 4 semifinal game between Huntington (18-16) and Winfield (17-14).