Nighthawks Bounced From Playoff Contention

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 7/31/2018 11:41:29 PM

White River Junction — For the first time in franchise history, the Upper Valley Nighthawks will not qualify for the New England Collegiate Baseball League playoffs.

The Nighthawks dropped both halves of their doubleheader against the Valley Blue Sox, 6-5 in 10 innings and 9-3, on Tuesday at the Maxfield Sports Complex. The losses extended a late-season losing streak to four games and ultimately will cost the team a Northern Division postseason slot.

Upper Valley (22-21) got no help from the out-of-town scoreboard. The Keene Swamp Bats won the first two games of their tripleheader with the North Adams SteepleCats, and the Sanford Mainers defeated the New Bedford Bay Sox, 7-6. So Upper Valley’s loss in the nightcap to Valley sealed its fate.

The top three teams in each NECBL division advance to the postseason. Upper Valley will close its schedule at 6:30 p.m. tonight at home against the Winnipesaukee Muskrats.

“It was a combination of playing a lot of games in a short period of time, thin roster, losing position players, pitchers having to throw multiple games in a row,” Upper Valley head coach Jason Szafarski said. “It’s just not getting those quality starts. We were winning games last week after five-, six-, seven-inning starts. It makes a big difference. Our arms were rested last week.”

Tuesday’s opener picked up where the two teams left off last week: Upper Valley holding a 2-0 lead with runners on first and second base and two outs in the top of the fifth inning. An RBI single by Wichita State’s Ross Cadena and a wild pitch by Valley reliever Craig Lacey brought in two more runs, giving UV a 4-0 lead.

Valley (30-12), the defending NECBL champ, bounced back in the seventh, scoring five runs on five hits and a walk to take a 5-4 lead. UV’s Greg Hardison (UNC-Greensboro) answered in the eighth with an RBI single, driving in Chris Berry (North Florida) from second base to tie the game.

Blue Sox first baseman Richard Constantine (Western Kentucky) won it in the 10th, a double into deep center field with two runners on. Upper Valley finished the game with 18 hits and left 14 runners on base.

The Nighthawks came out hot in the nightcap, scoring three runs in the bottom of the first inning, but Fordham’s Brian Weissert and the Upper Valley defense unraveled in the second inning. Weissert gave up eight runs on four hits, two hit batters and a walk. The Nighthawks also made three errors in the inning. Valley led, 8-3, when the dust settled.

“The first game, we gave up a five-spot. The second game, we gave up an eight-spot,” Szafarski said. “It was the story of two bad innings. It snowballed.”

The Nighthawks fell to 3-14 all-time against the Blue Sox. Plymouth State’s David Sampson is scheduled to start tonight’s season finale at Maxfield.

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




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