Lafferty’s hot play continues in the OVBL

CRESCENT – When you’re hot, you’re hot.

Lafferty is red-hot right now following Wednesday night’s 3-2 nail-biter over homestanding Barton here at humid Henning Field in Steele and Cook Insurance Ohio Valley Baseball League action.

The victory extends the Dodgers’ (11-3) win streak to five games and all of their season’s worth of wins have come in their last dozen outings and inched them closer to the front-running Wheeling Cardinals (11-1).

“The key to this team is our camaraderie,” Lafferty player/coach Jordan Barbina said. “We’re really flowing well. We love this team. We love playing together, and we don’t get on each other. We keep our heads up. That’s another key to our success.”

Speaking of playing together, nine of the 10 Dodgers that saw action played their high school ball together at Union Local. The lone exception is former Edison and current West Liberty standout Mark Smyth, who went the distance on the mound and had a key role in the game-winning rally.

Deadlocked at two entering the top of the seventh, Bernie Thompson, who is a starting wide receiver for Waynesburg University, drew a leadoff walk from Braves’ reliever Casey Tennant. A passed ball and stolen base moved Thompson to third before Austin Curry walked and swiped second.

With the count 2-1 on Smyth, his chopper down the third base line was kicked around as Thompson raced home. A strikeout and double play prevented further damage.

Barton (8-5) threatened in its final at-bat as Anthony Rocchio walked on a 3-2 pitch from Smyth with one out. After the second out was recorded, Nick Rocchio looped a single down the rightfield line as his younger brother scooted to third. However, Smyth took matters into his own hands, literally, as he leaped high in the air to glove Jourden Yager’s high-hopper before throwing him out to end the game.

“The guys make me feel really welcome here,” Smyth said in reference to be the only ‘outsider.’ “They’re a nice bunch of guys. I know a couple of them from college, so that helps out.”

After allowing Barton to score twice in the first inning and escaping a two-out jam in the second, Smyth settled into a groove. He retired nine in a row from the final out in the second to two outs in the fifth before yielding a single to Yager through the right side of the infield. He then set down five straight before the mini-threat in the seventh.

“I have to give Jelli (catcher Myron Jellison) a lot of credit for the game he called,” Smyth praised. “We got on the same page and it all went well from there.”

Smyth fanned seven and walked just one. He threw 109 pitches, of which 84 were for strikes. It was the second consecutive sharp mound outing for Lafferty.

“Travis threw a great game Tuesday,” Smyth noted. “I just wanted to keep us close.”

The Dodgers won despite stranding 13 baserunners, including eight in scoring position.

“We just didn’t drive in the runs today, but we got the job done when it mattered,” Barbina, who played for Barton last season, added.

Thompson’s one-out fielder’s choice gave Lafferty a 1-0 lead in the first, but the Braves answered with an RBI groundout off the bat of T.J. Sliva and Nick Koval’s run-producing single down the rightfield line in the bottom of the inning.

The Dodgers drew even in the second when Myron Jellison grounded into a fielder’s choice.

Tyler McGary had two singles for Lafferty.

Nick Rocchio singled thrice for the Braves. Yager had a pair of base knocks.

Mackenzie Koehler, who threw 110 pitches in five innings, fanned five, but issued seven base-on-balls. The biggest strike he threw ended the top of the sixth when he pegged out pinch-runner Ethan Tobin at the plate from right field, where he went as part of a double switch as Tennant came in to pitch. Linescore:

Lafferty 110 000 1 – 3 6 1

Barton 200 000 0 – 2 6 1

Batteries: Smyth and Jellison. Koehler, Tennant (6) and Hynes

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