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Phil's Tire evens series

| Tuesday, July 31, 2007

ROSTRAVER TOWNSHIP -- If Matt Nelson had a good attorney, he could probably sue his Phil's Tire teammates for lack of support.

That's because Nelson, a battling left-handed pitcher who graduated from Ringgold, hasn't gotten much run support from his teammates this season.

In fact, his 0-4 record going into Monday's Fayette County League playoff game with Bud Murphy's is more indicative of how little run support he has gotten more so than how he has pitched.

"He has pitched a lot better than his record," said Phil's manager Dan Palm. "He's been a hard luck pitcher. We haven't scored many runs for him. We haven't scored a lot of runs all year, but it's especially been the case when he has pitched."

Yesterday, at the John DiVirgilio Complex, Phil's Tire didn't score many runs for Nelson again. But Nelson gave up less than he got as he shut down Bud's in a 3-1 win.

The victory evened the best-of-three series at 1-1 with the deciding game slated for 5:45 p.m. today at Breakneck Field in Connellsville.

"Matt hasn't won a game this season, but his first win sure was a gem," smiled Palm after he watched Nelson limit Bud's to one run on seven hits. He struck out nine and walked just one.

Nelson was in control most of the game. But even when he wasn't, he fought his way out of some tough jams.

Bud's left the bases loaded in the fourth and seventh innings.

"He's a fighter and he fought his way out of some jams today," Palm said.

Nelson got all the support he needed in the second and third innings when Phil's Tire (13-17) scored single runs to take a 2-0 lead.

In the second, Dan Thomas led off with a walk and was bunted to second by Shane Molyneaux. Ryan Shetterly then smoked a double off the wall in left field to bring home Thomas.

In the third, the recipe for a run was nearly the same. Steve Scott led off by drawing a walk and he was bunted to second by Ken Musko. With two outs, Joe Brieter, another Ringgold grad, singled to bring around Scott.

Bud's (20-10) drew within a run in the fifth when Wes Hughes singled and scored on Ryan Miscik's two-out single.

The hosts got some breathing room in the sixth with a big run, sparked by another ringing hit off the bat of Shetterly.

Shetterly led off with a triple to right-center. One out later, Justin Murphy singled up the middle to make it 3-1.

"That run was so huge, especially after they had scored," Palm said. "Plus, the way the seventh was going, I thought we'd need that run."

That left it all up to Nelson, who loaded the bases in the top of the seventh with one out and had to face Bud's clutch hitter, Brian Sankovich. However, Nelson struck Sankovich out for the second time and then ended the game by getting Yough alum Jeff Lander to fly out to center.

Palm said he will start Ryan Russell in today's Game 3.

"We like having Ryan Russell on the mound for the third game and we have plenty of pitching left if we make it to the next round," said Palm. "So, we really like where we are. It's up to us."

Palm said he was not surprised that the first two games of the series have been hard-fought, low-scoring affairs.

"Both of these teams have deep pitching staffs," he said. "Over the last five years or so, we've played a lot of one- and two-run games with each other."

NOTES: Bud's starting pitcher Nick Damico was a hard-luck loser, as he went six innings and allowed just six hits. Damico (8-1) suffered his first loss of the season ... Phil's had a potential rally cut short in the fourth inning when Bud's right fielder Dave Gonos completed a double play by catching a fly ball by Scott and then gunning out Phil's runner Nolan Russell trying to score from third ... In other series, top seed Blaney Farms completed a sweep of Potter's Clubhouse, 14-1, and Mill Run finished off Waynesburg, 8-0. If Phil's Tire wins today, it will meet Blaney Farms in the next round.

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