Neffs stuns Lafferty
LAFFERTY – The postseason is usally referred to as the second season for teams that have underachieved. Throw out the records and start anew.
Neffs took that to heart here Thursday night on the Community Park diamond as the sixth-seeded A’s Gang scored an unearned run in the top of the ninth and that was all Matt Masarick needed.
The righthander tossed a three-hit shutout as Neffs (11-10) shocked the third-seeded host Dodgers, 1-0, in Game 1 of their Steele and Cook Insurance Ohio Valley Baseball League first-round playoff series.
“We actually brought our gloves tonight,” Masarick said in reference to the A’s Gang’s 23 errors in their last three regular-season games. “We didn’t have any errors, and that was huge. Playing error-less ball last year is what carried us to the championship series.
“We brought it today and we looked like the old Neffs,” he added.
Game 2 is tonight at the old ballyard along Ohio 149 in Neffs. Lefty Michael Roach is scheduled to take the hill for the A’s Gang. Lafferty will counter with veteran righthander Travis Stephens.
“Our backs are up against the wall. We’re down 1-0, but we’ve got good character on this team,” Lafferty (16-5) player/manager Jordan Barbina allowed. “We’re going to come back strong tomorrow.
Masarick, who needed a mere 104 pitches to get through nine frames, had six innings where he only faced three batters. He faced three batters over the minimum.
“I didn’t get real creative today,” Masarick explained. “I kept it pretty simple … fastball and curveball. I stuck with my two pitches and they were working.”
Masarick fanned seven and didn’t walk a batter, but he did hit one.
In the opposite dugout, Lafferty’s Mark Smyth was matching Masarick zero for zero for eight innings. He had allowed just two hits until the ninth.
Smyth, a former Edison and current West Liberty mound standout, quickly retired the first two batters he faced before Derek Miller lined a 1-2 pitch down the rightfield line for a single. With the count 1-1 on Brandon Leonard, Neffs perfectly executed the hit-and-run as Leonard slapped a soft single through the spot vacated by the Lafferty second baseman.
As Miller broke for third, the ball was bobbled and Neffs’ third base coach/manager Colin Graham didn’t hesitate in waving the speedy Miller towards the plate. The throw from rightfield was cutoff, and the relay throw to the plate was a tad high as Miller slid in underneath on a bang-bang play.
“This game for huge for our momentum,” Graham said. “Our pitcher brought his best stuff today and we got it done when we needed to.”
Smyth finished with a four-hitter. he struck out five and issued one free pass. He had stretches where he retired the first nine batters of the game, and 10 straight from the sixth through ninth innings.
“We wasted a good pitching effort, but their pitched pitched well, too” Barbina allowed. “But you have to score runs to win and we didn’t do that tonight.”
- The contest, despite going two extra innings, still only took 1-hour, 46-minutes. Seven full were complete in a sizzling 1:21.
- After committing the aforementioned 23 errors in its last three games, Neffs brought the leather Thursday as it turned in a trio of defensive web gems.
No. 3 went to rightfielder Dane Koch who made a diving grab of a sinking fly ball in the bottom of the eighth. No. 2 goes to third baseman Steve Splenda who dove to his left and gloved a wicked smash before getting to his knees and pegging a laser to first for an out in the sixth. No. 1 belongs to none other than leftfielder Brandon Leonard who never ceases to amaze. He tracked down a deep foul ball in the fifth, making a fully-extended, leaping back-hand grab with his back to home plate. When he crashed to the ground, he held on for the out.
- Neffs, which finished runnerup to Barton last season, had lost five of six entering the playoffs. Meanwhile, Lafferty was on the other end of the spectrum, winning 10 of its last 11 and 16 of 18.
- The other three first-round Game 1s were postponed by rain Thursday night, and will begin tonight. Those are No. 8 Shadyside at No. 1 Wheeling Cardinals at Patterson Field in Elm Grove; No. 2 Weirton hosting No. 7 West Liberty at Edwin J. Bowman Field; and No. 4 Barton entertaining long-time rival Maynard at Henning Field in Crescent.
Neffs 000 000 001 — 1 4 0
Lafferty 000 000 000 — 0 3 1
Batteries:?Masarick and Cla. Francis. Smyth and Jellison
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