A No-Decision at NECBL All-Star Game

  • The Upper Valley Nighthawks' Frankie Gregoire laughs with his teammates during the NECBL's All-Star game at Joe Wolfe Field on July 30, 2017. (Caroline O'Connor photograph)

  • Upper Valley Nighthawks pitcher Ashton Raines throws a pitch during the NECBL All-Star Game at Joe Wolfe Field on July 30, 2017. (Caroline O'Connor photograph)

Valley News Staff Writer
Monday, July 31, 2017

North Adams, Mass. — Sunday’s trip to Joe Wolfe Field for the 2017 New England Collegiate Baseball League’s All-Star Game got off to a rocky start for the 12 Upper Valley Nighthawks all-stars, and several of their teammates who decided to tag along.

The bus, which left at 9:30 a.m. following the Nighthawks’ 13-inning loss to the Valley Blue Sox on Saturday night, needed to arrive at the field by 11:30 a.m. to be part of the NECBL’s day-long festivities, but broke down 15 minutes in. A new bus had to come and pick the stranded Nighthawks up, tacking on another half-hour to the two-hour drive to the home of the North Adams SteelpleCats.

Upper Valley outfielder Anthony Godino, who participated the NECBL All-Star Game last summer as a member of the Winnipesaukee Muskrats, said he hoped the early snafu wasn’t a sign of how Sunday’s showcase was going to go.

“That was a test,” Godino said with a laugh. “Like, is this day really going to be really bad? Because it’s not starting good.”

Luke Reynolds, at least, didn’t need to worry. The Southern Mississippi product, who started in left field on Sunday, capped an early run by the Northern Division All-Stars with a two-run home run into right field, and Danny Wirchansky, Ashton Raines and Cory Gill each pitched a shutout inning in what resulted in a 5-5 tie after nine innings.

“This is a great honor because there’s a bunch of great players on both teams,” Reynolds said. “It was an honor to be a part of it. To meet all these guys, it’s fun.”

Sunday’s showcase was, for many of the 60 players in attendance, a chance to shine in front of close to 30 scouts from Major League Baseball who sat directly behind home plate, many holding out radar guns to detect velocity.

Godino, at least, knew what to expect.

“What’s really important is the batting practice, that’s when they assess your tools,” he said. “The 60-yard dash is huge, because if you run a good time there, that obviously shows you have speed. They’re testing your arm, infield and outfield routine, and then batting practice they’re seeing if you have bat speed, you have power, stuff like that.

“If you can put together a solid day, which is really hard to do, but if you can do well in the beginning, you kind of set yourself up for the rest of the day.”

Reynolds was one of the Northern Division’s best players on Sunday, finishing the game 1-for-2 and two RBIs.

“A little adrenaline pumping (knowing the scouts were watching),” Reynolds said. “It wasn’t really nerves. It was just fun to be out here. … (Having scouts around) is always in the back of your mind. You kind of just have to block it out.”

The Keene Swamp Bats’ Robert Boselli III, from St. John’s, won the league’s home run derby before the game, beating out Valley Blue Sox outfielder and NCAA Home Run Derby winner Niko Hulsizer (Morehead State). North Adams’ Curtis Godin, a track star from UCLA, won the 60-yard dash.

Sanford Mainers outfielder Colby Maiola, from UMass Lowell, was named the All-Star Game’s most valuable player. He finished 3-for-3 with two runs scored, including a home run in the bottom of the first to put the Northern Division on the scoreboard ahead of Reynolds’ two-run blast.

“You just tell these guys not to think too much (about the environment) and just play the way that got them here,” said Upper Valley head coach Jason Szafarski, who coached the Northern Division All-Stars on Sunday. “They’re all good players. Don’t put too much into what you did today. They look at your whole body of work. They look at tools. A lot of these guys will get a chance to play pro ball, and that’s really what it’s all about.”

Raines gave up a hit and recorded a strikeout in the second inning; Wirchansky threw nine pitches and forced three pop-ups in the third; and Gill, who pitched two innings in Saturday’s loss, had a strikeout in the eighth.

Godino was 0-for-3 with two strikeouts. Frankie Gregoire struck out; Al Molina struck out twice and Ryan Jeffers popped up to center field in the eighth.

Much of the afternoon was light-hearted in both dugouts in front of an announced crowd of 2,316 in North Adams. The sentiment was shared by the six Nighthawks who made the trip down to support their teammates. Keller Bradford threw to his Southern Mississippi teammate, Reynolds, in the home run derby; James McConnon mingled in the Northern Division bullpen for much of the game. Mike Coss, David Sampson, Adam Chase and Joe DeRosa were also out and about at Joe Wolfe Field.

“You want to be on your A-game all the time. But today, yeah, today is the day is like, if you’re going to come out and have a good day, today has got to be that day,” Godino said. “It’s nice to get hits in the game; I wish I played a little better but, you know what? It’s a good experience.

“This was a lot of fun; coming to the All-Star Game is always fun. It’s an honor to be put in here.”

Josh Weinreb can be reached at jweinreb@vnews.com or 603-727-3306.