WEIRTON - When Jordan Barbina was putting together his Lafferty roster for the Steele and Cook Insurance Ohio Valley Baseball League, he wasn't concerned with winning the league title or anything like that. All he wanted to do was have fun.
Well, after the Dodgers' convincing 9-0 blanking of second-seeded Weirton here late Sunday night on Edwin J. Bowman Field in Game 3 of their semi-final series, the Blue Crew is having the time of their lives.
With the win, its 20th in 26 decisions, No. 3 seed Lafferty finds itself in the championship series against Maynard, the fifth seed. That best-of-5 matchup begins Wednesday at the Community Park in Lafferty at 6 p.m. Game 2 will be Friday in Maynard at Firemen's Field, also at 6.
"It was meant to be just for the fun of it," Barbina said after the Dodgers eliminated the Red Dons (20-5). "Just to play with a bunch of guys that I'm familiar with. You know what? It worked.
"We're in the finals and we're having fun at the same time," he added before heading off for a week-long vacation, which means missing Game 1. "I've got confidence in the guys, but I hope it rains Wednesday. I'll be back Friday."
Lafferty didn't waste any time in jumping all over the hosts as it tallied seven runs in the top of the first inning. Sending 12 batters to the plate, the Dodgers banged out four hits and took advantage of some very sloppy play on the hosts' part.
Myron Jellison started the uprising with a one-out walk and went to second on Tyler McGary's single to right. Darby Waller walked to load the bases, but veteran Weirton lefty Steven Buffo got a much-needed strikeout before the walls collapsed around him.
Tyler Grant's broken bat roller to the left side of the infield resulted in a run-scoring single. Justin Curry dropped an RBI single into rightfield, and when the ball kicked away, Waller raced home to make it 3-0. Mark Smyth's base hit to right drove in Grant and when Buffo dropped Zeke Wharton's tapper in front of the mound that loaded the bases, his day was done.
Chris Fluharty came in and immediately walked Barbina to force in the fifth run. The Red Dons' lanky lefty then struck out Jellison, but the ball got away and Smyth tip-toed home. When the throw from the catcher to the pitcher covering was off the mark, Wharton sailed in head-first with the seventh marker.
"That was huge to score first," Barbina admitted. "I stressed to the guys that we needed to score first. I was looking at five (runs), but we didn't stop there."
Waller led off the second with an opposite-field single to left. Bernie Thompson's bunt was thrown wildly to first as Waller easily took third. After Thompson stole second uncontested, Fluharty uncorked a wild pitch that allowed Waller to come home. Smyth's groundout made it 9-0.
That was more than enough support for righthander Travis Stephens. The former Union Local and Otterbein standout checked the Red Dons on five hits, striking out 10 and not walking a batter although he hit a pair. Two of the hits were infield safeties.
"It was great taking the mound with a seven-run lead," Stephens noted. "It seems that every time I know I'm getting the ball, I feel good. I felt good tonight and all I wanted to do was throw strikes. That's what I did. I just pounded the strike zone with fastballs and really didn't mess around the off-speed stuff."
Stephens needed a mere 86 pitches, of which 68 were strikes.
"Travis was on tonight," Barbina said. "He's pitched a couple of really good games for us this year, and tonight was maybe his best."
Lafferty recorded nine hits - all singles. McGary and Waller led the way with two each. Grant had two RBI, as did Smyth.
Weirton's Logan Linder had the game's lone extra-base hit, a double with two outs in the third.
The Red Dons never had a runner touch third base.
The game took 1-hr., 54-min. to play, despite the top of the first taking 26 minutes.
The game's lone Web Gem came from Thompson. Lafferty's slick-fielding shortstop went into shallow left to snare a popup with a runner on and one out in the sixth.
Friday's game in Maynard will be played as scheduled, according to league president and Maynard manager Laney Simone Sr. The field was vandalized sometime late Friday or early Saturday, but Simone reported Sunday night that repairs have been made.
Stephens threw 22 of 29 first-pitch strikes.
Lafferty 720 000 0 - 9 9 1
Weirton 000 000 0 - 0 5 4
Batteries: Stephens and Jellison. S. Buffo, C. Fluharty (1) and S. Fluharty.
North can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org