ELM GROVE - And then there were none.
Lafferty saw its 13-game winning streak to start the 2014 Steele and Cook Insurance Ohio Valley Baseball League season come to a crashing halt here Tuesday night. The streaking Wheeling Cardinals (13-2) continued their solid play in all aspects of the game in handing the Dodgers a 5-3 loss on Patterson Field.
"We were in the ballgame. That's all you can ask for," Lafferty player/manager Jordan Barbina said. "We were hanging around there at the end hoping something would go our way. Today nothing went our way and we got the loss."
The victory was the red-hot Cardinals 11th straight since a 3-2 setback to Lafferty (13-1) on May 18. Wheeling also lost to Jefferson County on opening night.
"We're playing pretty well right now," Cardinals' player/manager Ricky Szeligo said, "Tonight we got a great effort on the mound from Noah (Mull); got the timely hits; and made the routine plays on defense."
The Cardinals, the 2008 OVBL champions, took advantage of a Dodgers' throwing error in the bottom of the first to take a 1-0 lead.
Lafferty evened things in its second at-bat when Zeke Whorton singled to left with one out. After advancing to second on a wild pitch from Wheeling starter Noah Mull, the former Martins Ferry standout went to third on Paul DeMarchi's single to center and raced home on Matt Masarick's two-strike sacrifice fly.
Wheeling would take the lead for good with a pair of tallies in the third. Aaron Fonner laced a leadoff double down the leftfield line and scored one-out later when Joe SanFelippo doubled over DeMarchi's head in center. Szeligo's two-out single to right-center plated San Felippo.
The hosts also used some two-out lightning in the fifth to pad their margin at 5-1. After Lafferty turned a nifty 4-6-3 double play, Joe SanFelippo doubled to right-center for his third hit of the game. Older brother Tony followed with a four-pitch walk from hard-luck loser Cameron Smith. Szeligo walked to load the bases and Budda Henry sent two runners home with a single to left.
"Joe is really been hitting the ball well," Szeligo. "We hope he continues to do so and Budda has been clutch all year."
Lafferty didn't go quietly as it scored twice in the sixth to make it a 5-3 game. Barbina legged out an infield single leading off and Austin Curry walked. Both advanced on a wild pitch before Darby Waller drew a base-on-balls to jam the bases. Tyler Grant walked on a 3-2 pitch to make it 5-2 and DeMarchi's one-out sacrifice fly drove in Curry with the final run as Mull struck out the next hitter to snuff out the rally.
"That's the first time I've really pitched competitively since 2012 when I was in the (San Diego) Padres' system," Mull, a former Wheeling Central product who was a 38th round pick in 2010. "I was tired after the second inning, but the guys played well behind me and we scored enough runs to win."
Mull fanned nine, allowed four singles and walked four in tossing 113 pitches - a whopping 36 in the sixth inning alone - with 72 being strikes. He threw a first-pitch strike to 16 of the 28 batters he faced and retired the final half-a-dozen he faced, four of them on strikes. Seven of his punchouts were swinging.
"Our pitching has been phenomenal all season," Szeligo noted. "Noah was great again tonight."
Joe SanFelippo finished with a single, two doubles, three runs scored and an RBI. Fonner, the No. 9 hitter, singled twice.
Lafferty was playing with a patchwork lineup due to an injury and a handful of players leaving for various reasons. Ace pitchers Mark Smyth and Greg Stagani, both Edison and West Liberty hurlers, are reportedly pitching in a league in Kentucky this summer, while catcher Clay Francis has a dislocated finger and first baseman Tyler McGary is completing an internship in D.C. Also, pitcher MoMo Felt has joined Wheeling American Legion Post 1 and former Linsly and Post 1 standout shortstop Alex Stephens was a no-show.
"We're still having fun," Barbina said. "Today just wasn't our day."
Lafferty returns home Friday to face rival Maynard on the Community Park diamond. The first pitch is set for 6 p.m. Wheeling entertains Hannibal.
Lafferty 010 002 0- 3 4 2
Wheeling102 020 x- 5 8 0
L-C. Smith lp (1K, 2W), Egri (6), (0K, 0W) and Masarick; Masarick SF, rbi; DeMarchi SF, rbi; Grant RBI
WC-Mull wp (9K, 4W) and Henry; J. SanFelippo S, 2D, rbi; Szeligo S, rbi; Henry S, 2rbi; Fonner 2S
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