Neffs wins fourth straight in OVBL

NEFFS – Sitting at 2-4, Neffs, the 2012 Steele and Cook Ohio Valley Baseball League runnerup, had to right the ship or face the possibility of a long month of June.

The A’s Gang (6-4) has done just that.

Sunday afternoon at the old ballyard along Ohio 149, Neffs, which was trailing 2-0, struck for runs runs in the bottom of the first inning en route to a 6-3 victory over Barton, the reigning champions. It was the fourth straight win for the Green-and-Gold.

“We went out and gave up those two runs, but we battled right back and scored four,” Neffs manager Josh Wells said. “I’m proud of the way the guys battled. We kept the lead the entire way and Dane (Koch) pitched a heckuva game.”

Indeed Koch did.

The former Martins Ferry product shook off a first-inning struggle to go the route. The righthander fanned half-a-dozen and only walked one in scattering nine hits.

A run-scoring single off the bat of TJ Sliva and Nick Koval’s RBI double to the leftfield corner staked the Braves (6-3) to a 2-0 lead after one-half an inning.

With one out in the bottom, Steve Splenda drew a walk from Barton starter Mike Muklewicz. Derek Miller, who played for Barton last season, stroked a single to left and Brandon Leonard followed with an RBI single to right. Clay Francis drew a base-on-balls to load the bases, and a walk to Clark Kasprowski tied it at 2.

It appeared as though Muklewicz would escape the jam without further trouble, but his own undoing led to two more unearned runs. Timmy Smith’s comebacker was initially dropped, but Muklewicz picked the ball up. His hurried throw to the plate sailed to the backstop, and when no one covered the plate, Francis sped home to make it 4-2.

“We played with our eyes closed the first couple of innings,” Barton skipper Billy Timko allowed. “That’s what happens when you don’t make the plays.”

The Braves made it 4-3 in the third on Mackenzie Koehler’s RBI double to deep right-center. Dustin Hynes raced around the bases from first to score.

Neffs came right back in the bottom of the frame when Leonard reached on an error leading off. With one out, Leonard swiped second and Kasprowski legged out an infield single. Cliff Francis came through with a two-out RBI single, bumping the count to 5-3.

The hosts tacked on an insurance tally in the sixth as Koch led off with a single to left and Splenda walked to end Muklewicz’s day on the hill. Nick Rocchio entered and served up a run-scoring base hit to Miller on a 2-0 pitch.

“That’s four straight wins now,” Wells said of Neffs’ winning streak. “We’re getting good pitching, good hitting and we’re playing defense well.”

Speaking of defense. Leonard, the A’s Gang athletic leftfielder made a fully extended catch of a Hynes’ line drive headed to the gap in left-center. He had a pair of those in last year’s championship series.

Miller also came up with a sno-cone grab in centerfield, once again robbing Hynes of a possible hit, with one out in the seventh and a runner on.

Muklewicz, who settled down after the shaky start, struck out eight, but walked seven. He yielded six hits.

Both teams are in action tonight as Neffs takes its winning streak to Maynard, while Barton visits Warren Township. Both games start at 6 p.m.

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