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Nighthawks going down to the wire

  • Upper Valley Nighthawks third baseman David Marcano (11) tosses the ball to teammate Cole Frederick (30) while trying unsuccessfully to catch Mystic's Steven Barmakain in a run-down duirng the opening game of a double-header at Maxfield Sports Complex in White River Junction, Vt., on Wednesday, July 31, 2019. (Rick Russell photograph)

  • The Upper Valley Nighthawks Andrew Cossetti (33) is tagged out at second base by Will Lucas of the Mystic Schooners in the first game of a double-header at the Maxfield Sports Complex in White River Junction, Vt., on Wednesday, July 31, 2019. ck Russell photograph)

  • Mystic Schooners' base runner Steven Barmakian (18) slips past Upper Valley Nighthawks' catcher Anthony Quinon (20) to score the first run of the first game during the first inning of a double header at the Maxfield Sports Complex in White River Junction, Vt., on Wednesday, July 31, 2019. (Rick Russell photograph)

  • The Upper Valley Nighthawks' Andrew Cossetti (33) takes a swing in a game against the Mystic Schooners in White River Junction, Vt., on Wednesday July 31, 2019. (Rick Russell photograph)

Special to the Valley News
Published: 7/31/2019 10:09:58 PM
Modified: 7/31/2019 10:26:47 PM

WHITE RIVER JUNCTION — Will Carnley trotted toward the dugout, dropped his glove and threw his hat to the ground. He covered his head with a T-shirt and slouched down, staring onto the field as he watched his teammate warm up on the mound.

Carnley’s mood summed up game one of Upper Valley’s doubleheader on Wednesday afternoon against the Mystic Schooners. In a situation with New England Collegiate Baseball playoff contention on the line, the Nighthawks struggled to provide their pitcher much offense.

The result was a 10-1 loss to the Schooners at Maxfield Sports Complex, marking Upper Valley’s third straight defeat.

The Nighthawks bounced back for a 3-2 win in the nightcap, setting up a big game with the Valley Blue Sox on Thursday evening.

Upper Valley (24-19) and Vermont sit tied for third place in the division with one game to go. The Nighthawks have already won season series from the Mountaineers and Blue Sox.

“I think that Will didn’t throw a lot of innings at Troy (University) this past year and he’s been throwing a lot for us this summer. He’s getting tired,” Nighthawks coach Keller Bradford said. “I think his arm is starting to get fatigued, starting to leave the ball up at the plate.”

The right-hander lasted just 3⅔ innings in the opener, allowing three earned runs on seven hits. He walked four batters, too. In his last four outings, Carnley’s allowed 19 earned runs and 30 hits in 15⅔ innings pitched.

In the bottom of the fourth, Carnley scrambled to his right to grab a bunt and threw it over first baseman Andrew Cossetti’s head. The error was the low point of a five-run inning for the Schooners, allowing them to extend a 3-1 lead to seven runs.

The Nighthawks’ lineup only produced two hits and struck out eight times.

Jeff Costello’s double to lead off the the fourth was one of the few glimpses of offense for Upper Valley. A dropped ball from the catcher allowed Costello to advance to third, and Cole Frederick drove him in on a sacrifice fly to left field.

Frederick, touting his league-leading batting average, has only had two hits in 12 at-bats since the all-star break.

“We just need to find better pitches to make a move on,” Bradford said. “We’ve been swinging at nearly everything, swinging at a lot of pitches outside of the zone. We need to have some more discipline at the plate and stick to what we’ve been doing all year.”

Headed into Wednesday, the Nighthawks were 1½ games behind the Keene Swamp Bats for first place in the Northern Division and a game behind the North Adams SteepleCats for second. The SteepleCats had a doubleheader at Valley on Wednesday postponed by poor field conditions; the teams are scheduled make up the twinbill on Friday.

The Nighthawks are looking down the barrel of a second consecutive season without playoff baseball.

“You’ll drive yourself crazy if you think about seeding, whose in and whose out,” Costello said. “We try to just focus one game at a time, that’s what our coach told us right after this loss. All the energy goes into trying to win this next game.”

Nighthawks win game two: The pitching came through with Upper Valley’s season on the line in a nightcap victory.

Skylar Pichardo (Marist) threw three hitless innings, Adam Smith (UNC-Wilmington) gave up three walks and a hit in the next 2⅓ and closer Aaron Haase (Wichita State) got the final five outs for his league-leading ninth save of the summer for Upper Valley.

Jack Zyska (Notre Dame) opened the scoring with an RBI single to right field in the second inning and Anthony Quirion (Lamar) knocked in two runs with the bases loaded in the fifth inning.

Mystic, which clinched a playoff spot in the Southern Division in the opener, scored two runs in the top of the seventh with an RBI double from Josh McGuire (Maryland) and a passed ball that plated McGuire.

After Mystic (22-20-1) cut the gap to one, Haase settled down to strike out Justus Burke (Allen County CC) and Will Lucas (Connecticut) to lock down the win and end Upper Valley’s three-loss streak. Costello went 2-for-4 in the second game and 3-for-6 on the day to boost his batting average to .323.

Zyska and Greg Hardison (UNC-Greensboro) both were 2-for-3 in the second contest for the Nighthawks. Smith earned the win and improved to 3-0 on the summer.

The win gave Upper Valley some life ahead of its regular-season finale on Thursday night at Valley. Game time at McKenzie Stadium is 6:35 p.m.

Valley News staff writer Josh Weinreb contributed to this report.

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