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Upper Valley Anglers hook winner in COVID league quarterfinals opener

  • Upper Valley Anglers catcher Jack Loftus, left, and first baseman Andrew Hadlock, right, celebrate their 4-1 win over the New Hampshire Prospects in the first game of a best-of-three series in the New Hampshire COVID Baseball League playoffs at Lebanon High School, Friday, August 7, 2020. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Ben Williams of the Upper Valley Anglers hits a line drive that was caught for an out during the Anglers’ 4-1 win over the New Hampshire Prospects in the first game of a best-of-three series in the New Hampshire COVID Baseball League at Lebanon High School, Friday, August 7, 2020. Prospects catcher Dylan Aliberti is at right. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Jack Loftus, of the Upper Valley Anglers, slides safely into third under the glove of Connor Abood, of New Hampshire Prospects during the Anglers 4-1 win Friday, August 7, 2020. (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
Published: 8/7/2020 9:52:13 PM
Modified: 8/8/2020 10:47:22 AM

LEBANON — It takes a cool customer to run the bases like Jack Loftus did on Friday night.

The recent Hanover High graduate twice showed off his un-catcher-like speed to help the fourth-seeded Upper Valley Anglers open the best-of-three New Hampshire COVID Baseball League quarterfinals with a 4-1 win over New Hampshire Prospects White at Lebanon High School.

Loftus scored the game-winning run on his own first-inning single, skating all the way around the diamond thanks to a pair of NHP throwing errors. He added an insurance run in the sixth, going from first to third on an infield grounder and later scoring on another defensive miscue by the visitors.

“I felt pretty good today,” said Loftus, who is bound for Maine’s Bridgton Academy this fall. “I got a good night’s rest last night in my parents’ A/C room; they’re out of town. My room is usually like 100 degrees, so it’s pretty fun.”

Upper Valley reliever Sam Sacerdote appeared similarly chill. The rising Hanover sophomore threw six innings of one-hit shutout relief, freezing the fifth-seeded Prospects (9-12) with five strikeouts.

Game two is Saturday at 10 a.m. at the Derryfield School in Manchester.

“It’s nice to get into something new like that; best out of three, I think that’s a good way to do it,” UV coach Rob Woodward said. “We’re running guys out there. We’ve got some guys hurt. We’re finding some guys who can give us some innings.”

Upper Valley starting pitcher Kyle Young (KUA) struggled with his control from the get-go. The submarine right-hander hit two NHP batters in succession in the first frame and saw his night end when he hit a third an inning later.

NHP failed to take much advantage. Young gave up an RBI sacrifice fly to the Prospects’ Jack McLean before fanning Connor Abood to escape serious damage. Sacerdote put out the flames after Young’s exit, striking out Chris Keefe with the bases loaded to end the second. The visitors stranded five in their first two at-bats.

“This summer, I’ve been the relief guy, especially when I’ve got my pitches,” said Sacerdote, who fooled several foes with a sharp-breaking curve. “I’m usually the next guy. They called my name, and I went in.”

The Anglers (12-9) made the most of a small opening to rebound from the first-inning deficit.

With two outs and Prospects starter Alex Messig throwing darts, Upper Valley’s Keegan Silovich (Hanover) singled to right. Cleanup hitter Loftus’ first swing at a Messig offering sent his bat flying over the third-base dugout and into the adjacent trees, but he still slapped a 2-2 pitch to right to set Silovich in motion.

Silovich rounded second base and easily beat the ball to third as NHP right fielder Zach Smith’s throw bounced wide. Silovich motored home, followed by Loftus, who never stopped running and crossed the plate as another toss sailed high to the backstop for a 2-1 lead.

“That’s more of an instinct thing for me, but the coaches say to just run,” Loftus said. “They say we like it more aggressive, and we can pull back aggressive if needed.”

Kobe Benoit (Lebanon) singled and scored on a sac fly to right by Andrew Hadlock (KUA) to up the Anglers’ lead to 3-1 after two innings. Sacerdote would end up not needing the support.

“Cricket (Young) has been throwing the ball well for us,” Woodward said. “He had an off day today, and Sam picked him up.”

Messig, out of Nashua North, took the hard-luck loss. Only one of the Anglers’ four runs off the righty was earned.

The Anglers’ Brendan Walker (Woodsville) will get the ball for Saturday’s contest. A win would send Upper Valley to a best-of-three semifinal pairing next week. A deciding third game, if needed, is set for 10 a.m. on Sunday at Lebanon High.

Greg Fennell can be reached at gfennell@vnews.com or 603-727-3226.




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