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Early birds: Nighthawks prevail in their first morning game

  • Nighthawks catcher Anthony Quirion positions himself to tag Austin Gauthier, of the Mountaineers, out at home at the Maxfield Sports Complex in Hartford, Vt., Saturday, July 6, 2019. The Nighthawks won 4-1. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Avery George, of the Nighthawks, gets the sign to hold on third as he runs the bases against the Mountaineers at the Maxfield Sports Complex in Hartford, Vt., Saturday, July 6, 2019. The Nighthawks won 4-1. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Dan Bolt, of the Nighthawks, breaks a bat in the fifth inning against the Mountaineers at the Maxfield Sports Complex in Hartford, Vt., Saturday, July 6, 2019. The Nighthawks won 4-1. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.



Valley News Staff Writer
Saturday, July 06, 2019

WHITE RIVER JUNCTION — Will Carnley hadn’t played in a morning game since high school. Not that the early start — against an in-state rival in a must-win game in a tight race atop the Northern Division standings — seemed to bother him much. Not much seems to be able to faze him in a summer where he’s been nothing but stellar.

The Upper Valley Nighthawks ace from Troy University brought his best stuff once again on Saturday morning, a 4-1 win over the Vermont Mountaineers at the Maxfield Sports Complex.

It was the first 11 a.m. start in New England Collegiate Baseball League history. The announced crowd of 297 fans saw Carnley — who was named the NECBL Pitcher of the Week last week — give up only one unearned run on seven hits, two walks and five strikeouts in seven innings of work for the win.

The Silverhill, Ala., native is 2-0 in four starts with a 1.58 ERA.

“The pitcher of the week, I didn’t want to let that get to me,” said Carnley, who’s family was in attendance on Saturday. “I wanted to continue the work that I had been putting in, go out there and compete to the best of my ability and give my team the best chance to win.

“The defense was spectacular today. I think I had four or five strikeouts, so I didn’t win that game for us. … It was really nice to have support from (the defense) and get some runs later in the game.”

The win was an important one for the Nighthawks — who entered the game tied with Vermont for the third and final playoff spot in the Northern Division.

Upper Valley improved to 13-10 with the victory, putting it two games behind the first-place North Adams SteepleCats (14-7) and 1½ games behind the Keene Swamp Bats (13-7) as the regular season begins its second half. Vermont (12-11) extended its losing streak to four games.

“(Carnley) just competed, that’s what he does such a great job of,” Upper Valley head coach Keller Bradford said. “It’s not like he throw 95 miles an hour. He just competes every single pitch, every single batter. He gives us quality innings every time he goes out there.”

The Nighthawks next host the New Bedford Bay Sox (5-16) on Sunday afternoon for a pair of seven-inning games.

But consistency has been an issue this summer for Upper Valley, which collapsed in a disappointing 7-3 loss to Keene at Alumni Field on Friday night. Against the Mountaineers, Carnley and the Nighthawks defense was able to shut the door with the offense needing just one big inning for the victory.

Carnley struggled in the opening inning, giving up a lead-off double that eventually turned into a run on an error. He left a Vermont base runner on base in each of the first three innings, and got out of a bases-loaded jam in the fifth inning unscathed. Upper Valley trailed, 1-0, headed into the bottom of the fifth.

“Keller came and talked to me after the third inning — same thing I had been struggling with, my backside was getting up. I need to drill that in my head to get my backside down and stay with the ball,” Carnley said.

“Everything was elevated the first couple of innings — slider, fastball. Once I made that adjustment, I got in a little bit of a groove. I had a ton of confidence in my defense today.”

Then, the rally came as Vermont starter Alec Huertas started to fatigue. Anthony Quirion (Lamar) broke his 0-for-10 slump at the plate with a single into center field. An Avery George (Lamar) walk and a Dan Bolt (Bradley) single loaded the bases with one out for Gehrig Anglin (Wright State), who blasted a line-drive single into left field for the RBI, tying the game, 1-1.

Greg Hardison (UNC-Greensboro) added an RBI groundout and Cole Frederick (Jacksonville State) laced a two-out, two-run double just inside the right field line.

Upper Valley led, 4-1, after five innings and never looked back, allowing only two base runners in the final four innings after taking a lead. Center fielder Avery George (Lamar) saved a run in the seventh, catching a runner at the plate with a throw home to end the inning.

Adam Smith (UNC-Wilmington) and Aaron Haase (Wichita State) shut the door in the eighth and ninth with a combined no hits or walks and three strikeouts.

“I thought for what we needed today, we got exactly what we needed to win this game,” Bradford said. “The fifth inning, when we scored four, that’s all we needed to win this game because Carnley pitched so well and gave us such a great chance. … As long as we can get those hits whenever we need them, those timely hits, we can continue to win games.”

The Nighthawks are 3-3 in their last six games dating back to last Sunday, falling three times to Northern Division opponents.

Bradford said he isn’t worried about the inconsistency; three more pitchers were signed to the team late last week and should arrive in the next few days, which he hopes can solidify a bullpen that has been decimated by injuries and departures. If the offense can keep working, he said, the results will come, leaving the Nighthawks in good shape come playoff time.

“We need to hit that stride again, like we had last week and rattle off some wins. I think we will,” Bradford said.

Jordy Allard (Babson) is scheduled to start Game 1 of the doubleheader with New Bedford on Sunday afternoon. First pitch is 3 p.m.

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