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Valley Blues: Nighthawks Lose Game 1 in Ninth

  • The Upper Valley Nighthawks' Cade Sorrells grooms the infield with a mower before an NECBL playoff game against the Valley Blue Sox on Friday, Aug. 4, 2017, at Maxfield Sports Complex in White River Junction, Vt. (Valley News - Charles Hatcher) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • The Upper Valley Nighthawks' Connor Rowland slides safely into first base during an NECBL playoff game against the Valley Blue Sox on Friday, Aug. 4, 2017, at Maxfield Sports Complex in White River Junction, Vt. (Valley News - Charles Hatcher) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • The Upper Valley Nighthawks' Anthony Godino swings during an NECBL playoff game against the Valley Blue Sox on Friday, Aug. 4, 2017, at Maxfield Sports Complex in White River Junction, Vt. Godino hit a home run for the Nighthawks. (Valley News - Charles Hatcher) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • The Upper Valley Nighthawks' Cade Sorrells slides safely into second base during an NECBL playoff game against the Valley Blue Sox on Friday, Aug. 4, 2017, at Maxfield Sports Complex in White River Junction, Vt. This was the first of a three-game series. (Valley News - Charles Hatcher) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.



Valley News Staff Writer
Friday, August 04, 2017

White River Junction — It took nine innings and more than 2 hours and 29 minutes for everything to go wrong for the Upper Valley Nighthawks, or at least feel like it had.

Anthony Godino, one of Upper Valley’s best hitters, was stung in the left forearm on a pitch from Valley Blue Sox starter Michael Adams on Friday night at the Maxfield Sports Complex. He’s likely done for the rest of the playoffs for a team that was already absent starting second baseman Al Molina from an off-field injury.

Then relief pitcher Cory Gill, the NECBL leader in saves, lost his first save opportunity of the summer as the second-seeded Blue Sox scored two runs in the top of the ninth of a come-from-behind, 4-3 victory over the top-seeded Nighthawks to take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three series that resumes tonight at Mackenzie Stadium.

“The bottom line is, if you’re going to put runners in scoring position, like I’ve been saying all week, if you don’t cash those guys and find a way to get those guys in, you’re going to see that back end of their bullpen,” Upper Valley head coach Jason Szafarski said. “That’s what we say. They’re tough. If we score a few more runs, it’s a different ball game.”

Upper Valley, the NECBL’s best offense, managed only four hits in front of an announced crowd of 587 and was not able to execute its score-first strategy against one of the best bullpens in the NECBL.

Its lone spark came in the third inning on a three-run bomb from Godino into left-center field to give the Nighthawks a 3-1 lead. The Wagner product was wincing in pain three innings later, his left forearm limp after being hit by a pitch from Adams (Towson).

“I saw a high-in fastball and I went to turn. I guess when I turned, I didn’t bring my hands fully with me. I left them out just a little tiny bit, and it just happened to catch me right on my forearm. Right on my wrist,” Godino said. “I couldn’t even feel my fingers after it first happened.”

Godino said he will go to the hospital this morning and, if he can squeeze a bat, he will play. But his availability seems unlikely; Godino’s arm was iced and wrapped in bandages after the game.

“I wish we had more energy coming out of the gate today, to be honest,” he said. “We could have opened it up in the beginning of the game, but we just weren’t finding the open spots.

“We haven’t played a game where we’ve needed all that energy, and we need that intent. We’ve been coasting. It’s kind of hard to turn that switch on. I say that with my school team, and I say it here, too. It’s hard to get guys to say, ‘All right, now we have to play hard again.’ ... But I thought we played well. They have a really, really good bullpen.”

Ashton Raines (Bloomsburg) threw well in his seventh start, exiting the game after six innings having given up seven hits, two runs and three walks with five strikeouts. Kody Gardere took over the in the seventh and lasted only a third of an inning before Szafarski went to his Troy University closer, Gill, with two runners on and the Nighthawks clinging to a 3-2 lead.

It would be Gill’s longest outing of the summer: 2⅔ innings and 10 batters faced. He struck out three in the seventh and eighth before things fell apart in the ninth.

Valley’s Kyle Mottice (Cincinnati) started the rally with a single to center field on a 0-2 pitch, putting the tying run on base. Mark Grunberg (Towson) put down a sacrifice bunt to move Mottice to second before Andrew Rouse (Marist) knocked a slow-rolling ball down the first-base line. Gill, Nighthawks catcher James McConnon (St. Joseph’s) and first baseman Cade Sorrells (Lipscomb) converged to get the out, but no one remained to cover home plate and Mottice turned on the jets to score, tying the game at 3-3.

Hulsizer, the College Home Run Derby champion, then launched a 2-2 fastball over the left-field fence for the game-winning run, sending the Blue Sox’ dugout into a frenzy for the second time in six days at Maxfield. The other came in a 13-inning win last Saturday night.

“(Gill) is a heavy slider guy,” Rouse said. “I was ready for his slider, but his slider is really good. I saw it, I was sitting on it, but I kind of said, ‘Oh, you’ve got me.’ I just got it off my bat, had to be perfect placement.”

Rouse and Hulsizer finished the game a combined 6-for-7 with five RBIs. Valley stranded 10 runners in the win.

“I play with a couple from school over there,” said Rouse, who counts the Hawks’ Mike Coss and Frankie Gregoire as Marist teammates. “They want to win. We want to win. It’s good competition.”

Now the Nighthawks have to travel to Mackenzie and take a must-win game to force a series-deciding game with reliable lefty Cam Alldred on the mound. Upper Valley is 1-4 all time on Valley’s home turf, its lone victory coming in the opening game of a doubleheader, 2-0, on July 16.

Upper Valley’s division-winning season comes down to nine innings in Holyoke, Mass.

“It’s tough. Nobody want to be down 1-0 in a three-game set,” Szafarski said. “Now we’ve got to get one on the road. I trust that Cam Alldred is going to give us a great start tomorrow, and bottom line is we just have to execute. If any group is going to come back and get a win, it’s this group, because they’re resilient.”

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