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Hawks end slide



Valley News Staff Writer
Wednesday, June 12, 2019

MONTPELIER — Maybe all the Upper Valley Nighthawks needed was matching high neon socks over their gray road pants to end the four-game skid.

The Nighthawks used a lively offensive performance, a strong start from pitcher Paxton Thompson and a little bit of luck to win their first game in six days, 4-3, over the in-state rival Vermont Mountaineers at Recreation Field on Wednesday night. Thompson (Bradley) pitched four strong innings before giving up a lead in the fourth, Aaron Haase (Wichita State) shut the door in the eighth and ninth innings and Upper Valley’s offense managed six hits and took advantage of five Vermont errors to improve to 2-4.

“It was going take some time to figure it all out, but I think we got a better read on things,” said Nighthawks head coach Keller Bradford, who’s team fell, 7-1, at Vermont five days ago. “We feel really good about any game Paxton starts. He was good night one; he was good tonight. He’ll throw a lot of quality innings for us this year, I think.”

Upper Valley hosts the Winnipesaukee Muskrats (0-5) on Thursday at the Maxfield Sports Complex.

Thompson was strong in his second start of the summer, getting himself out of jam in the first with two runners on before giving up two runs in the fourth. Vermont opened the scoring on a fielder’s choice and added another run off a screaming line drive that popped out of Upper Valley third baseman David Marcano’s glove.

But the Nighthawks’ bats answered in the fifth, tying the game on a bunt from Dan Bolt (Bradley) that was thrown away for an error that allowed two runs to score. Greg Hardison (UNC-Greensboro) followed up with an RBI single that scored Bolt from third, giving the Nighthawks a 3-2 lead.

“We had some really big hits there at the end, and some clutch pitching at the end,” Bradford said. “We’re starting to find those guys who can do that for us.”

Phillip Sanderson (UNC-Greensboro) was stellar through the next two innings in relief for the Nighthawks, striking out four. But Upper Valley ran into trouble in the seventh after lefty pitcher Cal Carver (Wichita State) threw back-to-back walks and a single before being pulled. Henry Gladson (Notre Dame) threw a wild pitch later in the inning that allowed the tying run to score from third base.

Once again, the Nighthawks answered. Marcano (NJIT) started things off with a single and Anthony Quirion (Lamar) walked before Jack Zyska (Notre Dame) laid down a one-out bunt down the third-base line. The throw to first was wild, allowing Marcano to score from second. Upper Valley led, 4-3, headed into the bottom of the eighth.

Then it was all Haase, who allowed no hits, walks or runs and struck out two in the final two innings to close out the victory.

“You’ve just got to come in and fill up the zone, not walk people,” Haase said. “Let the defense work. The energy is high. Everyone is having fun.

“It’s frustrating, but that’s part of it,” he added on the club’s last week of games. “Nobody has played with each other yet; we’re still figuring stuff out. We’re working out all the kinks.”

It was the first win for Upper Valley since taking the season opener against the Keene Swamp Bats last Thursday. The Nighthawks also tied a season-low with just one error, inserting newly arrived Cole Frederick (Jacksonville State) and Adam Smith (UNC-Wilmington) into the lineup. Frederick scored a run and Smith was 1-for-4 in their debuts.

“We knew we weren’t going to lose every game the rest of the summer,” Bradford said. “We just had to get back in that win column. Now we can keep things going.”

Game time for Thursday’s game against the Muskrats is scheduled for 6 p.m.

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