Lead Eludes Hawks Again

  • Upper Valley Nighthawks pitcher Brody Lawson delivers Saturday against the Valley Blue Sox at the Maxfield Sports Complex. Lawson started well but allowed five runs during the fifth inning. Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Upper Valley Nighthawks manager Jason Szafarski writes down his NECBL team's starting lineup Saturday before the first pitch against the Valley Blue Sox at the Maxfield Sports Complex. Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News — Tris Wykes

  • Thetford Academy baseball coach Phil Chaput, working for the Upper Valley Nighthawks this summer, waters the Maxfield Sports Complex's infield Saturday before an NECBL game against the visiting Valley Blue Sox. Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. —Tris Wykes

  • Upper Valley Nighthawks relief pitcher David Sampson, right, acknowledges cheers from his teammates Saturday in the Maxfield Sports Complex home dugout. Sampson scurried from the bullpen on to the field to retrieve a foul ball. Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. —Tris Wykes

  • Upper Valley Nighthawks pitcher Danny Wirchansky throws a bullpen session Saturday at the Maxfield Sports Complex under the watch of coach Tom Hudon. Wirchansky, from Pace (N.Y.) University, was a Nighthawks standout last summer and is scheduled to make his 2018 debut with the NECBL team Monday at Newport. He is coming off rehabilitation for an injury suffered during the college season. Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. —Tris Wykes

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 6/30/2018 11:44:22 PM
Modified: 6/30/2018 11:44:24 PM

White River Junction — The Upper Valley Nighthawks lost their third consecutive game on Saturday at the Maxfield Sports Complex. Almost as irritating as the defeat was the opponent who pinned it on them.

The Valley Blue Sox, defending New England Collegiate Baseball League champions and based in Holyoke, Mass., handed the Nighthawks their sixth setback in their last seven contests in a 6-4 defeat. Upper Valley, a third-year franchise, is 3-12 all-time against the Blue Sox, who swept the teams’ best-of-three playoff series last August.

As is becoming commonplace in the North Division series, Valley’s triumph was of the comeback variety. The Nighthawks led, 4-0, after four innings before the wheels, doors and radio antennae came flying off pitcher Brody Lawson’s performance. After redshirting at North Carolina-Wilmington this spring, the righthander entered the weekend with a 1.63 ERA in 11 innings with Upper Valley.

This outing turned sour in a hurry, however, the Blue Sox producing back-to-back singles, a two-run triple and a run-scoring double without an out during the fifth inning. Lawson shouted in frustration as he entered the home dugout, earning jeers from the visitors across the way. His line for the night: four-plus innings, eight hits and five runs — all earned — to go with six strikeouts and a walk.

“I was feeling good and loose and then, between leaving the bullpen and standing for the national anthem, I got calf cramps,” said Lawson, who felt he drank enough before the game but was perhaps low on electrolytes. “I was in pain all night. I stretched as much as I could, but it only numbs it a little bit.”

The bottom of the ninth inning summed up the hosts’ experience neatly with a ground out, a popup to the shortstop and a called third strike to retire the side in order.

“During this little skid we’re on, we’ve been trying to get the big hit every time instead of letting the game come to us like we did earlier on,” said manager Jason Szafarski, whose team is off today before visiting the Newport (R.I.) Gulls for a Monday doubleheader.

“It almost seems like (the players) need a kick in the butt. These are the dog days of summer, and we’re not moving runners. We’re leaving nine, 10, 13 per game, and it puts our pitching staff in a tough position.”

Szafarski said he knew Lawson was cramping but not to what extent. Meanwhile, the Nighthawks scored thrice during the first inning.

Leadoff man Drew Tipton was hit by a pitch, followed by an Alvin Melendez single on a line drive that struck Valley third baseman Freddie Landers and bloodied his mouth.

Greg Hardison followed with a run-scoring single, and Chris Berry delivered a one-out sacrifice fly for a 2-0 lead. Eric Felix singled home Melendez to add another run.

The hosts’ advantage jumped to 4-0 during the third inning. Hardison and Anthony Quirion singled to start the frame and Berry was hit by a pitch, loading the bases. Davis Mikell was also plunked, driving in Hardison.

The Blue Sox bounced back during the fifth inning. Vanderbilt’s A.J. Franklin relieved Lawson with runners on second and third and surrendered a double to left field, creating a 4-4 tie. A one-out ground out pushed Valley ahead, 5-4.

West Georgia’s Wes Parker took over Upper Valley’s pitching duties for the seventh inning, throwing a shutout frame. His college teammate, Greyson McLeod, followed for the eighth and hit a batter, who then stole second and scored on a single, pushing the score to 6-4.

“You have to find a way to put good teams like (Valley) away, and we haven’t done that,” said the mellow Szafarski, who delivered what, for him, amounted to an impassioned postgame speech to his team. “We need somebody to step up in the bottom half of the order and help flip us over to the top.”

Said Lawson: “I’m going to go home tonight and think about the pitches I didn’t execute and the ones I could have executed better. Then I’m going to flush this game.”

Notes: Valley reliever Ethan Jones exited the game during the sixth inning when a throw from Landers struck his throwing arm, leaving a large welt. … The Nighthawks’ last victory over Valley was in mid-July of last year. … Nighthawks general manager Noah Crane said Pace (N.Y.) University’s Danny Wirchansky, an Upper Valley pitching standout last summer, is slated to throw the second game Monday. … Crane said catcher Eddie Modica is battling a hamstring issue but should be available again within a few days. … In a predictable bit of gamesmanship as attendance increases, lawn chairs placed up against the Maxfield backstop hours before the first pitch are being moved to less-desirable positions by those who arrive later. There’s talk amongst diehard fans of using bicycle locks to secure their seats to the chain-link fence during the afternoon. … Mikell’s walk-up song is the theme from the cartoon SpongeBob SquarePants. During a sixth-inning at-bat, the Castleton University student twice whacked himself in the batting helmet with his bat after fouling off a pitch. … Landers drew chuckles while recovering from his mouth injury by noting that he already has a false tooth and that it cost roughly $1,000. … Former Nighthawks slugger Frankie Gregoire entered the night batting .214 with no home runs and five RBIs during 11 games with the Blue Sox but did not play Saturday. … Upper Valley shortstop Riley Smith is having a tough season at the plate, but his offensive output includes a foul ball that ripped into the Winnipesaukee press box and destroyed a water bottle earlier this season. … Taking the night off was Wichita State’s Hunter Gibson, a Nighthawk who’s hitting .122 in 13 games. … Crane said Wagner (N.Y.) University outfielder Anthony Godino, a Nighthawks standout last summer, struggled this spring and has not found another baseball home. … Attendance was announced at 477.

Tris Wykes can be reached at twykes@vnews.com or 603-727-3227.

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