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Grand slam sends Nighthawks to third loss in four games

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 6/24/2021 10:54:30 PM
Modified: 6/24/2021 10:54:38 PM

KEENE, N.H. — The Upper Valley Nighthawks’ recent slide has come down to small margins.

Whether it’s little things not going the Nighthawks’ way or spotting the opponent one big inning that proves too much to overcome, the Nighthawks haven’t been able to put it all together lately.

They dropped their third game in the last four on Thursday to the Keene Swamp Bats, 6-5, at Alumni Field to fall out of first place in the NECBL Northern Division.

“The record doesn’t show who we are as a team,” Nighthawks manager Justin Devoid said. “It is what it is. But we’re a lot better team than we’ve been playing. I think we have a lot of talent, and just some things haven’t rolled our ways the last few days, and we just gotta keep competing and playing.”

It was a big inning that did Upper Valley (8-6) in during this game.

Nighthawks starting pitcher Cade Lommel (Creighton) got off to a nice start, giving up one earned run through three innings and looked to be in control. But then the fourth inning rolled around, and Lommel got into trouble.

The Swamp Bats (8-5) took a 2-1 lead on three straight singles to open the inning. An error then allowed them to load the bases. And after a strikeout, Swamp Bats right fielder Ethan Groff hit a grand slam to center field — the shortest part of the field at Alumni Field — to give Keene a 6-1 lead.

The short fence was a concern coming into the game for the Nighthawks.

“We talked to our pitchers and let them know that a routine out at our field is probably gone here by some feet,” Devoid said. “And you know that coming into this ballpark. The dimensions are what they are. We can’t control it.”

Lommel pitched one more inning after that and breezed through it. He finished with six runs allowed (five earned) on five hits and two walks with seven strikeouts.

He said he felt good throughout the game and that a few things just didn’t go his way. He gave props to Groff for getting to a high pitch for the grand slam.

Lommel said the key to preventing the big innings that have plagued the Nighthawks in recent games is damage control.

“It’s hard to do. But there’s gotta be one guy or one thing that stops that flow of hits and momentum on their side,” Lommel said. “We just gotta stop it.”

The Nighthawks rallied late with one run in the seventh inning on a solo home run by first baseman Will Sullivan (Troy) and two runs in the eighth. That eighth was their best chance of the game — they loaded the bases with nobody out. And while two runs from that situation isn’t the worst possible outcome, stranding two runners in scoring position after cutting the deficit to one run hurts.

The Nighthawks also left the tying run in scoring position in the ninth.

Devoid gave credit to Swamp Bats starting pitcher Zach Davidson (Lincoln Trail College) for keeping them off-balance early in the game, and he wasn’t overly concerned about his team’s offense coming alive too late. He felt his team played well, which made the loss sting even more.

“It’s just that one swing, honestly,” Devoid said. “Walked a guy, a couple hits here and there. Again, I thought defensively we played better today, so a step in the right direction that way. We had just one inning, the five-spot. Other than that, we played a pretty clean game, and pitchers did pretty well.”

The Nighthawks will return home Friday for a doubleheader against the North Adams SteepleCats.

Seth Tow can be reached at stow@vnews.com.


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