Smith no-hits Neffs
LAFFERTY – Jordan Barbina wasn’t sure Sunday afternoon who he was going to give the ball to for Monday’s decisive game three against Neffs in the Steele and Cook Insurance Ohio Valley Baseball League playoff quarterfinals.
The Lafferty leader had a guy in mind, but he had a few hoops to jump through before being able to finalize it.
All along, Barbina wanted to give the ball to Cameron Smith, who has been impressive this summer for the Lafferty squad, but Smith was scheduled to work and didn’t think he’d be able to be at the game.
Barbina talked to Smith, got a few strings pulled and Smith didn’t let him down as he silenced a talented Neffs’ lineup in more ways than one. He no-hit the A’s Gang (11-12) as Lafferty (18-5) advanced to the semifinals with a 2-0 victory at Lafferty Community Park.
“I talked to his manager and he let him come and throw and he threw a gem,” Barbina said. “All year we’ve gotten good pitching, played good defense and scored some runs when we can.”
Smith was by no means overpowering. He struck out only two. He didn’t allow his first base runner until the fourth on a walk. He walked three total, plunked a batter and Lafferty committed one error.
“I didn’t try to do anything different,” Smith said. “I just tried to do what I’ve done all season. I wanted to keep them off-balance, hit my spots and I’ve learned over the years that you don’t have to throw hard to dominate.”
Lafferty scratched a run across in the bottom of the first. Catcher Myron Jellison, who Barbina called the “biggest key” to the Lafferty pitching staff, reached on an error to lead off the game.
He stole second and after an out was recorded, he moved up 90 feet on a base hit by Tyler McGary. Shortstop Bernie Thompson, who flashed the leather a couple of times in helping preserve Smith’s gem, drove in Jellison with a sharp single.
That proved to be the only run of the game until the sixth when Lafferty manufactured an insurance run.
Thompson drew a walk and stole second. After a strikeout, Tyler Grant grounded out to the right side, allowing Thompson to move to third. Mark Smyth, who was the winning pitcher in Sunday’s game, drove in the final run of the game with a base hit.
“The plays that Bernie made tonight define his personality,” Barbina said. “He’s a gamer. He showed up five minutes before the game started and delivered in a big way.”
In between, it was all Smith … and the Lafferty defense.
Neffs threatened in the fifth when it had runners on the corners with two outs. However, Jellison caught an A’s runner napping at third, ending the rally. He later picked off a runner at first to end the game.
Rightfielder Zeke Wharton came up big for Smith with a diving catch for the first out in the seventh inning.
“I actually had no idea I was pitching a no-hitter until after the game,” Smith said. “The guys played great defense behind me. We’ve got a lot of fight and a lot of character on this team. We’ll battle.”
While Lafferty is advancing, it was a tough ending for Neffs, which advanced to the league championship series last summer. Dane Koch certainly deserved a better fate on the bump. He limited Lafferty to just four hits, struck out five and walked just two.
“We got a fantastic outing from our pitcher,” said Neffs’ shortstop Steve Splenda. “He threw as good a game we could have hoped for, but we just didn’t bring the sticks and that’s a credit to (Lafferty) because their pitcher was great, too. He made us look silly at times and kept us off-balanced.”
Lafferty will play the waiting game before opening the semifinals later this week against an opponent to be determined. It’ll be the winner of Weirton and West Liberty.
Neffs 000 000 0 – 0 0 2
Lafferty 100 001 x – 2 4 1
Batteries: Koch and Masarick. Smith and Jellison.
Staskey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org