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Nighthawks settle for a split

  • Easton Kirk

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 7/3/2019 10:38:59 PM
Modified: 7/3/2019 10:38:51 PM

WHITE RIVER JUNCTION — Six slow innings from the Upper Valley Nighthawks, a come-from-behind win in extra innings, a blown lead, a late-game rally cut short.

Wednesday’s doubleheader with the Sanford Mainers had it all with a 5-4 win and 7-6 loss at the Maxfield Sports Complex. Easton Kirk (Troy) was the hero of Game 1, scoring the game-tying run to in the seventh inning to extend the game, then driving in the game-winning run one frame later.

In Game 2, Cole Frederick (Jacksonville State) was caught trying to score from third base on a potential game-tying sacrifice fly to center field, allowing Sanford to complete game-ending double play.

Upper Valley is 12-9 headed into Thursday’s holiday off-day, in the thick of a tight race involving the Nighthawks, Vermont Mountaineers (12-8), Keene Swamp Bats (11-7) and North Adams SteepleCats (12-7). The Nighthawks travel to Alumni Field to take on the Swamp Bats on Friday night, with ace Jordan DiValerio (St. Joseph’s) on the mound.

First pitch is 6:30 p.m.

Game 1: Upper Valley 5 Sanford 4 (8)

What started as an Upper Valley dud against the team with the second-worst record in the NECBL’s Northern Division turned into a come-from-behind victory in its first extra-inning contest of the season.

“These guys never give up,” Upper Valley head coach Keller Bradford said. “That’s a credit to them. … They fought to the last out, last inning. The first game it worked out. The second game, not so much. But it wasn’t a blowout or anything; it was a close game right to the end.

“Right now, we’re struggling with our pitching. We have some guys get hurt. Being able to stay in games like that makes us feel good about ourselves.”

Not much was cooking for the Nighthawks against Sanford starting pitcher Matt Rudis in the opener.

Rudis took a one-hit shutout into the seventh inning, exiting the game with six strikeouts. It was the only time this summer the Nighthawks have had one hit through the first six innings of a game and the fewest since netting four in a 1-0 win over Vermont on June 21.

Meanwhile, Sanford’s offense took little time figuring out Upper Valley starter Jordy Allard (Babson). The Mainers scored early in the first inning on a two-out double from Nick Howie. Allard left the game in the fourth inning, giving up five hits and a walk with two strikeouts.

Devin Beckley (Citadel) settled things down. He gave up a run in the fourth, charged to Allard, but allowed one hit and five walks over the next four innings. The Mainers (8-13) carried the two-run lead into the bottom of the seventh. But Sanford reliever Jacob Parker (Georgia Southern), with three saves and a 0.00 ERA entering the game, collapsed: One hit and three walks later, Upper Valley was on the board, down 2-1 with no outs.

The Mainers’ Nick Laster took over with the bases loaded. Kirk scored two batters later on a passed ball, tying the game, 2-2.

In a rule adopted before the current season, extra innings began with a baserunner on second base. Shane Marshall took second in the top of the eighth for Sanford, scoring on a two-out RBI single by Sterling Hayes.

Brian Moore took second base for Upper Valley in the bottom of the eighth. Gehrig Anglin (Wright State) and Greg Hardison (UNC-Greensboro) started things off with back-to-back hits, Anglin on a bunt that Sanford first baseman Brandon Lankford knocked from fair to foul territory and Hardison on an RBI single to right. Frederick was intentionally walked, and Kirk laced a run-scoring single to left field for the win.

The loss was Sanford’s fourth straight and second to Upper Valley this season. Anglin finished the game 2-for-4; Kirk, who is batting .500 in his first six games, has hit safely in every one of his games for the Nighthawks.

Game 2: Sanford 7Upper Valley 6

Upper Valley trailed, 7-5, headed into the bottom of the seventh inning, but a late-game rally fell short with Frederick being called out trying to score from third base on a one-out pop-up.

“You’ve got to take a chance,” Bradford said. “You can’t stay on third on that and have two outs, then we’ve got another pop-up and end the game and say, ‘We had an opportunity to go and we didn’t take it.’ We had to try.”

The Nighthawks built a 5-2 lead after two innings, answering the Mainers’ two-run opening at-bat. Hardison hit a two-run single, then Anglin and Hardison scored on back-to-back wild pitches in a four-run second inning that gave Upper Valley a lead.

Sanford answered. Howie smacked a two-run bomb over the center-field fence in the fourth inning. Then Drew DeMartino hit an RBI single in the fifth to tie the game, 5-5, before the Mainers took the lead in the top of the seventh on Upper Valley reliever Skylar Pichardo (Marist). Shane Marshall’s run-scoring sacrifice fly and Howie’s RBI single put Sanford up headed into the bottom of the inning.

Hardison started off with a double to left field, and Frederick hit an RBI triple to center to cut the deficit to one. Kirk grounded out to first base for the inning’s first out. Jack Zyska (Notre Dame) then popped out to center, and Frederick was caught trying to score, ending the game.

“If we can stick around .500 and win a few extra games here and there over the next few games until we get some more pitching in, we’ll stay in good shape,” Bradford said. “Some guys are getting hurt. But we’re having to throw some guys out there on back-to-back days, on some rest they’re not ready for, just because we don’t have anybody else.

“Those two games are huge,” he said of Upper Valley’s next contests, Friday’s visit to Keene and Saturday morning’s home date with Vermont. “They’re games we really expect to win.”

Josh Weinreb can be reached at or 603-727-3306.

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