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Nighthawks continue slow start, drop fourth straight

  • Upper Valley's Dan Bolt moves toward second base while Keene's Paul Kosanovich pitches during their game at the Maxfield Sports Complex in White River Junction, Vt., on Tuesday, June 11, 2019. (Valley News - Joseph Ressler) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Jason Hudak pitches for the Upper Valley Nighthawks in the first inning of the game against the Keene Swamp Bats at the Maxfield Sports Complex in White River Junction, Vt., on Tuesday, June 11, 2019. (Valley News - Joseph Ressler) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Upper Valley's Avery George runs from second to third base after a hit from Brian Moore in the second inning of the game against the Keene Swamp Bats at the Maxfield Sports Complex in White River Junction, Vt., on Tuesday, June 11, 2019. (Valley News - Joseph Ressler) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.



Valley News Staff Writer
Tuesday, June 11, 2019

WHITE RIVER JUNCTION — Well, at least Jordan DiValerio is back in town.

DiValerio, a returning Upper Valley Nighthawks’ pitcher from St. Joseph’s University and a 2018 NECBL All-Star, rejoined the club after a short stint in the Cape Cod League ahead of Tuesday night’s contest against the Keene Swamp Bats at the Maxfield Sports Complex.

He may have arrived just in time to help a pitching staff that has reeled through its first five games, the latest a 14-5 loss to Keene that was no different as, one-by-one, Nighthawks pitchers collapsed against Keene’s streaky bats.

What’s worse: It all came on a night when the Swamp Bats committed a whopping five errors and Upper Valley’s offense strung together 15 hits.

It was the fourth consecutive loss for the Nighthawks, digging themselves deeper into the worst start to a New England Collegiate Baseball League season in the club’s four-year history. Upper Valley travels to Montpelier’s Recreation Field on Wednesday night for a game against its in-state rival Vermont Mountaineers.

“I’m not worried about it. We’re going to turn this around,” Upper Valley head coach Keller Bradford said. “I’m frustrated because I hate losing. But I’m not worried about it.”

The meeting was the second between the two Northern Division foes this summer, the first of which ended in a 14-8 win for the Nighthawks — their only victory thus far. Upper Valley had 11 hits and four errors in a sloppily-played opener that saw a combined 21 walks thrown by the two pitching staffs. Tuesday’s game was no different, with a combined nine errors for the NECBL’s two statistically worst defensive teams.

This time, and for the third time in its first five games, Upper Valley’s pitchers couldn’t get the job done.

Hudak, the sophomore from the University of North Carolina-Wilmington, got the start for the Nighthawks just days after arriving in the Upper Valley. He threw back-to-back walks to Keene’s first two batters in the top of the first. Then, Gehrig Anglin (Wright State), Upper Valley’s third baseman, threw a late throw to first for a single to Keene’s Brendan Smith. Hudak then walked in the first run of the night to Swamp Bats’ David Matthews. It got worse from there.

Keene’s Will Wagner, Kyle Ball and David Bedgood knocked in runs for the visitors; the Swamp Bats got five runs on four hits and three walks in the top of the first inning, leading 5-0 before some at Maxfield could find a seat.

“Honestly, I thought there were some hits that were not hit very hard. There were some hard-hit balls, but there were some hits — some bleeders, some bloopers, ground balls through the hole,” Bradford said. “Guys are trying to make plays and one just squeaks by an infielder. It’s going to happen. We just need to continue to try and minimize the damage.”

Hudak lasted only two innings, exiting the game with five earned runs on six hits, three walks and one strikeout.

The Nighthawks offense then came alive, getting on the board on an error in the second inning before stringing together a three-run rally in the third. Greg Hardison (UNC-Greensboro) scored from first base on a stolen base and two errors. Anglin followed with an RBI double that drove in David Marcano (NJIT). Anthony Quirion (Lamar) added an RBI double off the left field wall, cutting Keene’s lead to 5-4.

“We’re hitting the ball well,” Bradford said. “We just have to get some hits when we have two outs and a runner on second base.”

Problem was, the Swamp Bats weren’t done.

Andrew DeRoche (Trinity) took over in relief of Hudak in the third inning, pitching 2⅓ innings before falling apart in the fifth — giving up a two-RBI double to Keene’s Bedgood. Jordy Allard (Babson) finished the inning, but not before the Swamp Bats scored three more. Keene scored five runs on five hits, one error and one walk in the fifth, re-establishing a six-run lead.

The Swamp Bats never looked back as relief pitcher Michael Bacica allowed two hits and struck out two in 3⅓ innings for the win. Keene’s Devin Bedgood was 3-for-5 with three RBIs and a run scored batting ninth.

“I didn’t get here until mid-July, so that team was a little bit more put together when I showed up,” Bradford said of the Upper Valley squad he played for in 2017. “I think any summer ball team is a work in progress through five games.”

Skylar Pichardo (Marist), Davis Mikell (Castleton) and Adam Smith (UNC-Wilmington) finished the game on the mound for Upper Valley; Smith labored in the ninth, giving up another four runs on two hits and a walk. No Nighthawks pitcher managed to get through three innings. 

First pitch against the Mountaineers is set for 6:30 p.m.

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