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Nighthawks’ playoff push hits a speed bump

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 7/29/2019 10:01:48 PM
Modified: 7/29/2019 10:01:42 PM

SANFORD, Maine — The good news is the Upper Valley Nighthawks will not have to face the Sanford Mainers again this summer.

Upper Valley, in a neck-and-neck race for one of the three playoff spots in the New England Collegiate Baseball League’s Northern Division, blew an early lead and failed to generate much offense down the stretch in a 6-3 loss to Sanford on Monday night at Goodall Park.

The loss dropped the Nighthawks (23-17) into third place in the North. Division-leading North Adams (24-16) lost to Valley, 8-1, and Keene (24-17) held off Newport, 6-4, to slip into second place. Upper Valley hosts Newport on Tuesday, with three regular-season games remaining after that. The playoffs start on Saturday.

A lack of offense for the second consecutive time at Goodall Park — after a 24-hour break for the NECBL All-Star Game — ultimately did the Nighthawks in. Upper Valley, which is 4-8 in games after off days this summer, managed just two hits in the final five innings and five hits total in the loss. It’s the second consecutive time that Nighthawk hitters had little success at Goodall Park; their last trip to Sanford resulted in a two-hit shutout loss, 4-0, on July 9.

“I think the only way off days hurt you is when you know you have guys at the plate who are hot,” said Upper Valley pitching coach Mike Coss, who served as the bench boss with Nighthawks head coach Keller Bradford taking an evening off. “They keep swinging, then you give them off the off day when they’re not swinging. I don’t know if that plays a huge role, but I think it does a little bit. … We had a few hits tonight, but it didn’t string together.”

With the game tied, 3-3, things unraveled on Upper Valley reliever Kellen Spann (West Alabama) in the seventh. Spann gave up a lead-off triple to the Mainers’ Reece Armitage (Marist) followed by back-to-back doubles — one of which was lost in the lights by Nighthawks center fielder Jack Zyska (Notre Dame) — for the go-ahead runs. A failed throw to second base by catcher Andrew Cossetti (St. Joseph’s) allowed an insurance run to score, giving the Mainers a 6-3 lead headed into the eighth.

Upper Valley jumped on Sanford starting pitcher Gage Feeney (Southern Maine) early, taking a 3-0 lead into the bottom of the fourth inning. Jeff Costello (Northeastern) laced a two-run double in the second inning, scoring Brian Moore (Lipscomb) and Jake Knop (Manhattan). Costello later hit an RBI single in the top of the fourth to plate Moore. Costello finished the night 2-for-5 with three RBIs to lead Upper Valley.

But the Mainers, who will miss the NECBL playoffs for the second time in three seasons, scored two runs in the bottom of the fourth – an RBI single, a wild pitch and a passed ball by Nighthawks starting pitcher Devin Beckley (Citadel) – and tied the game in the fifth on reliever Jordy Allard (Babson). The game remained tied, 3-3, until the collapse in the seventh.

The Nighthawks have had trouble against Sanford this summer, finishing 2-4 against the Mainers. They also have only three wins in their last eight games. Sanford improved to 2-13 after victories, putting together its second back-to-back wins this season.

“It’s just something about (Sanford); maybe we can’t really see their pitches well, I guess,” Coss said. “I thought we pitched OK tonight, OK enough to win. Especially with our offense having been able to score runs of late. They didn’t fall tonight. I think that was the story.”

NECBL All-Star Jordan DiValerio (St. Joseph’s) is scheduled to start on the mound for the Nighthawks against Newport. First pitch is scheduled for 6 p.m.

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




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