It was just the start that the Neffs A's Gang had envisioned when they arrived at the field Tuesday evening for the start of the opening-round series against the Wheeling Cardinals in the Steele & Cook Insurance OVBL playoffs.
The A's Gang, which has battled consistency with their everyday lineup at times, had things clicking on all cylinders as it posted a 7-1 victory in a brisk 82 minute contest.
Neffs will try to close out Wheeling this evening at Patterson Field in Elm Grove when the series resumes. If Wheeling prevails, the series will return to suburban Bellaire Friday for the decisive game three.
"This is only one win, but it's a good first step," said Neffs' player-manager Dane Koch. "We threw our ace today because we definitely wanted to get the first victory."
Neffs' approach won't change entering today's contest as Koch prepares to give the ball to former Martins Ferry standout Fred Owens for a chance to close out the series.
"We won't even celebrate this win," Koch said. "We're still hungry. This is one win and it takes two to advance."
Neffs (15-6) scored in each of its final four at-bats, pushing across single runs in the third and fourth before two in the fifth.
It was plenty for Neffs' Matt Masarick who was in the groove all evening. He fanned three, walked one, hit a batter and allowed only three hits.
Masarick was the beneficiary of solid defense. Neffs turned a double play and was charted for just two errors.
On the offensive side, the A's Gang received a big game from shortstop Josh Nagel who was 4-for-4 with three singles and a double. He scored a run and drove in a run. Jon Nagel doubled home a run and Koch helped Neffs salt the game away when he sliced a RBI single down the right-field line in the seventh.
Along with its eight hits, Neffs also took advantage of four Cardinals' errors.
"You have to stay aggressive for all seven innings," Koch said. "It doesn't matter how many runs you might be up by because it only takes one inning for them to rally. We took advantage of some opportunities and we'll need to do that again (Wednesday).
Neffs and Wheeling split their two meetings during the regular season.
"Our lineup is hardly ever the same because we struggle to get guys at times," Koch said. "We're going to have everyone again (Wednesday)."
Wheeling 000 001 0 - 1 3 4
Neffs 001 123 x - 7 8 2
BATTERIES: SanFelipo and Cietti. Masarick and Francis.
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