NEFFS - Shadyside kept its slim playoff hopes alive Friday night with a 4-3 victory over homestanding Neffs in Steele and Cook Insurance Ohio Valley Baseball League action at the old ballyard on Ohio 149.
The Casket Makers (4-13) are currently tied with Warren Township for the eighth, and final, spot in the 11-team league. Both teams have three games remaining.
With the loss, the A's Gang (10-7) finds itself locked in a four-way battle with Weirton, Barton and Maynard for the third through sixth slots. The top four teams earn home-field advantage in the first round of the playoffs, which are set to begin Wednesday at the four higher seeded teams' home fields.
"This (win) really feels good," Shadyside player/manager Patrick O'Donnell allowed. "It's always good to get a win here (in Neffs). There's a little bit of a rivalry here.
"We're battling for a chance (at the playoffs) ourselves," he added. "We've got three games left, and I like our chances at getting that No. 8 spot."
Shadyside scored all of its runs in the second inning when it bunched five of its eight hits.
Mike Michelli started the uprising with a soft single to center. Winning pitcher Nathan Butts followed with a shot of the third baseman's glove to put runners on first and second. Neffs starting pitcher Jared Taylor got two quick outs and appeared to be escaping trouble. However, Jeff Campbell lined a single to center to load the bases. Adam Stupak's bloop single down the rightfield line made it 1-0, and Michael Oberdick's bouncer up the middle upped the count to 2-0. O'Donnell's smash to short was too hot to handle as two runners crossed the plate.
Meanwhile, Butts was dodging potential disasters in the first four innings. He also received some fine defensive plays from his mates, as well.
"Adam (Stupak) played a great game at short," O'Donnell said. The recent Shadyside graduate recorded one putout and five assists, none bigger, however, than the one in the sixth.
With the Casket Makers clinging to a 4-3 advantage, Neffs had runners on second and third with one out. Steve Splenda's shot to a drawn-in Stupak was lasered to catcher Clay Francis who tagged out the sliding Clark Kasprowski on a bang-bang play. A harmless fly ball ended that inning.
The A's Gang also threatened in the seventh when brothers Clay and Cliff Francis singled back-to-back leading off. A failed bunt attempt resulted in the first out and a routine fly to left was the second out. Tim Smith kept the inning alive with a single to center that loaded the bases, but Butts ended things with a fielder's choice grounder to the sure-handed Stupak, who flipped to O'Donnell on the game-ending forceout.
"It's all about errors. When we make errors, we lose the game," Neffs manager Cliff Francis said. "When we come with our gloves, we win.
"We couldn't string the hits together when we needed to," he continued. "They jumped out 4-0 and we could never fully recover."
The A's Gang did slice the deficit to the final margin with a a three-run fifth. Taylor walked leading off and Derek Miller laced a double to the rightfield corner. Clay Francis followed with a two-run double to the gap in left-center. He would score on a throwing error.
Butts struck out three and walked five in scattering nine hits. He threw 114 pitches. He also singled twice and doubled.
Taylor gave up eight hits, fanned two and walked one in six innings. He needed 89 pitches. Matt masarick worked a scoreless seventh with a walk.
Neffs travels to Lafferty Sunday for a key 1 p.m. contest. Shadyside plays host to the Wheeling Yankees, also at 1 p.m. Sunday.
Shadyside 040 000 0 - 4 8 2
Neffs 000 030 0 - 3 9 3
Batteries: Butts and Wells. Taylor, Masarick (7) and Cla. Francis
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