Lafferty cruises by Neffs

LAFFERTY – Lafferty cemented itself as one of the top two teams in the 2013 Steele and Cook Insurance Ohio Valley Baseball League Sunday afternoon.

With their convincing, 11-2, rout of visiting Neffs on the sun-splashed Community Park diamond, the Dodgers (15-4) can do no worse than second place in the regular season. They are one-half game behind the front-running Wheeling Cardinals, who are finished for the regular season. Lafferty hosts Warren Township tonight at 6 p.m. in its regular-season finale.

Should Wheeling and Lafferty end in a tie, the team that scored the most runs in the two games against each other – which they split – will earn the top seed in the playoffs.

“We needed this win,” Lafferty manager Greg Curry said. “The guys were kind of down after the loss at Weirton (4-2) Friday night, but, to their credit, they bounced back really nicely.”

Lafferty scored five times in the second and third innings combined to take a commanding lead it would never relinquish. Mark Smyth’s RBI single keyed a two-run second, while Zeke Wharton’s run-scoring groundout was the highlight of a three-run third.

Both innings were kept alive by fielding and throwing miscues on the A’s Gang’s part. Neffs had six errors all told.

“We know what happens when we play good teams and we make a bunch of errors,” Neffs’ manager Colin Graham allowed. “We lose like we did today.”

Neffs (10-9) plays at Barton tonight in a key matchup for playoff positioning. The A’s Gang announced Sunday that they will forfeit their game with the Wheeling Cardinals.

The playoffs begin Thursday with best-of-3 series.

With his teammates staking him to a five-run lead, former Union Local standout Cam Smith was holding Neffs at bay through five innings. Although he only recorded two strikeouts and walked two, he scattered five hits and made big pitches when he needed to.

“Cam has pitched really great for us all season,” Curry advised. “He has three shutouts already.”

Neffs got on the scoreboard in the fifth when Derek Miller and Brandon Leonard smacked back-to-back singles leading off. Leonard went to second on the throw to third trying to get Miller. Clay Francis delivered a two-run single to make it 5-2 and end Smith’s day on the mound.

Justin Curry came on in relief and shut the door as he retired six of the seven batters he faced. He fanned two and walked one.

The Dodgers erupted for six runs in the bottom of the inning as they chased Neffs’ starter Dane Koch in sending 11 batters to the plate.

Wharton was hit-by-a-pitch leading off and Smyth walked. Travis Stephens laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt and Justin Curry slapped the first pitch he saw to rightfield as both runners crossed the plate. Curry alertly went to second on the throw home, and he raced home on Myron Jellison’s bloop single to right.

Three errors by the A’s Gang and RBI singles from Tyler McGary and Tyler Grant bumped the count to final margin.

“We hit the ball really well today,” Greg Curry noted. “We’ve been playing good baseball of late.”

McGary, Grant and Justin Curry all had two hits as Lafferty banged out nine as a team. Curry led the way with two runs batted in.

Logan Ballint clubbed a double for Neffs only extra-base hit. Linescore:

Neffs 000 002 0 – 2 5 6

Lafferty 023 060 x – 11 9 2

Batteries: Koch, Nagel (5) and Cla. Francis. C. Smith, J. Curry (6) and Jellison.