Nighthawks outlast Winnipesaukee in 12 to make NECBL quarterfinals

  • Callahan

Staff Report
Published: 8/4/2021 1:20:51 PM
Modified: 8/4/2021 1:20:57 PM

Staff Report

WHITE RIVER JUNCTION — The Upper Valley Nighthawks and Winnipesaukee Muskrats needed 12 innings to settle their NECBL Northern Division first-round playoff game on Tuesday at Maxfield Sports Complex.

The Nighthawks ultimately emerged victorious, as center fielder Brett Callahan (St. Joseph’s Univ.) blooped a walk-off single to give Upper Valley a 7-6 win.

Nighthawks manager Justin Devoid said the game-winning hit was a sigh of relief.

“I was really excited for him because he had been working really hard leading up to that at-bat, and got a couple of hits already in the day going the opposite way. So I could tell that he was on the ball,” Devoid said on Wednesday morning. “There’s been a couple moments this year where he’s been up late in games and hasn’t been able to come through, and for him to do that was really awesome.”

Callahan finished 3-for-6 with a double. The decisive RBI was his fourth of the game.

But the reason that moment was as relieving as it was exhilarating is because of the missed opportunities the Nighthawks (24-18) had throughout the game. They stranded runners on base in several key situations, leaving 12 on for the night.

The second-seeded Nighthawks went up 1-0 in the second inning, but the seventh-seeded Muskrats (14-26) stormed back with three-run rallies in the fourth and fifth innings. Upper Valley starter Jackson Haga (Liberty) gave up three in the fourth, before Jake Gigliotti (Northeastern) came in and worked out of the jam. Gigliotti then allowed three in the fifth, two on home run by Winnipesaukee center fielder Josh Rodriguez (Rutgers).

Down 6-1 and with the Nighthawks’ season in peril, Devoid reassured his players.

“The mood throughout the whole game was, ‘We’re the (No.) 2 seed for a reason; we’re where we are for a reason, because we’re a good team,’ ” Devoid said. “So I just told them we got to keep chipping away, have good at-bats and if we keep getting guys on base, we’re going to score them.”

Upper Valley responded with four runs in the sixth inning, keyed by a two-RBI double by shortstop Luca Trigiani (St. Joseph’s Univ.) Callahan tied the game in the eighth with an RBI single.

Devoid was pleased to see the bottom of the batting order finally deliver the key moments.

“To have Luca and Brett in the (Nos.) 8 and 9 spots come through in really big situations last night, that really helps,” Devoid said. “It takes pressure off of the top four or five guys in the lineup.”

Meanwhile, the Nighthawks’ bullpen took control of the game. Cameron Bye (Wichita State) threw two scoreless innings in relief, didn’t allow a baserunner and struck out five out of the six hitters he faced. Connor Holden (Wichita State) threw 1⅔ innings, giving up only two hits with two strikeouts. Nick Cantone (Marist) took over to get the final out of the ninth inning and pitched all three extras without a hit and permitting only one runner on base via a walk. He struck out three batters.

The Nighthawks advance to the second round, the N orth Divisional Semifinals, which is a best-of-three series. Upper Valley will face the North Adams SteepleCats, and the Nighthawks will host game one of the series at Maxfield Sports Complex Wednesday at 6:05 p.m. North Adams will host game two at Joe Wolfe Field Thursday at 6:30 p.m. If necessary, game three will be Friday at 6:05 p.m at Maxfield.

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