Nighthawks fall to Navigators in Game 1 of North Division finals

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 8/8/2021 10:24:24 PM
Modified: 8/9/2021 9:41:45 AM

WHITE RIVER JUNCTION — The Upper Valley Nighthawks’ season is on the brink.

The Nighthawks dropped game one of the NECBL North Division Finals against the North Shore Navigators on Sunday at Maxfield Sports Complex. The Navigators rode strong pitching to a 5-0 win against a depleted Upper Valley lineup.

It’s the first loss of the postseason for the Nighthawks (26-19), and the Navigators (24-21-2) are now one win away from the NECBL Championship Series.

With players departing for school and the Nighthawks’ roster dwindling, Manager Justin Devoid had to start three pitchers in the batting order. After the game, Devoid told his team he was proud of how the season went, regardless of how it ends.

“We were the second team in the league for a reason, and I thought, with our full roster here, that we’re the best team,” Devoid said. “The group of guys we had to come out there and have three pitchers in the lineup, they tried their butts off. The other position guys, I know it’s really hard to try to compete right now, when the end’s kind of in sight. They still came out there and tried.”

Sunday’s game was a pitching duel most of the way. The Navigators took a 1-0 lead in the first inning on an RBI single by third baseman Matthias Haas (Cal Poly San Luis Obispo).

Nighthawks starter Cade Lommel (Creighton) spent the rest of his short outing — 3 ⅓ innings — working out of trouble. He allowed four hits and five walks, but only the one earned run. He struck out four Navigators.

Jake Gigliotti (Northeastern) held North Shore quiet for 2 ⅔ innings after replacing Lommel. But the Nighthawks hitters couldn’t get anything going against Navigators pitcher Graham Jeffries (Salve Regina). The Nighthawks recorded just three hits off Jeffries in six innings — all came in the first three innings. Those were Upper Valley’s only hits for the entire game.

James Sashin (San Diego) and Justin Butera (Merrimack) shut the Nighthawks down the rest of the way.

The offense was limited heading the game with three pitchers at the bottom of the batting order. Third baseman Gehrig Anglin (Wright State) said that didn’t change the approach of the top six hitters.

“The guy was throwing strikes,” Anglin said. “We had plenty of opportunities to capitalize, but just couldn’t get that one hit to break it open.”

It was the Navigators who broke the game open in the seventh inning against Alex Theis (Wright State).

Haas obliterated a three-run home run to left field to make it 4-0. Given Upper Valley’s offensive struggles, the lead was all but insurmountable.

North Shore tacked on one more in the ninth off Zane Kmietek (Marist). The Nighthawks moved Anglin to the mound with the bases loaded, and he picked up a strikeout.

Upper Valley potentially added injury to insult in the bottom of the inning, when second baseman Max Viera (Northeastern) was hit by a pitch in the wrist and was forced out of the game. Devoid was unsure if Viera would be available for game two.

Devoid said his challenge at Fraser Field on Monday will be getting his team in the right mindset for a do-or-die contest after losing the way they did Sunday.

“The biggest thing is to tell them just to have fun,” Devoid said. “I think that’s going to be the main message. Just going out, having fun tomorrow, and being with this group. It’s a great group. Sad that our numbers are dwindled, so we’re missing some pretty good guys. But still, this core group right here is fantastic to be around. And they should just enjoy that tomorrow and take it all in. ... We’ll see what happens tomorrow.”

The Nighthawks and Navigators will play Game 2 of their series Monday at Fraser Field in Lynn, Mass at 7:05 p.m. A North Shore win would end the series. An Upper Valley victory would bring the series back to Maxfield on Tuesday for a winner-take-all game three.

Seth Tow can be contacted at stow@vnews.com.




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