Hawks Pull It Off in Ninth

  • Binghamton University junior Anthony Meduri, of Columbus, N.J. Anthony Meduri, Portraits of the New England Collegiate Baseball League's 2018 Upper Valley Nighthawks at the Valley News office in West Lebanon, N.H., Monday, June 4, 2018. (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: 7/18/2018 11:37:03 PM
Modified: 7/18/2018 11:37:12 PM

White River Junction — The Upper Valley Nighthawks waited until the last possible moment to keep their playoff hopes alive, getting a massive assist from the lights at the Maxfield Sports Complex in the process.

Ross Cadena’s first hit of the night drove in the two game-tying runs in bottom of the ninth inning and Anthony Meduri sent a first-pitch slider into left-center field for the game-winning RBI to give the Nighthawks (18-15) a 5-4 win over the North Adams SteepleCats on Wednesday night in front of an announced crowd of 587.

The win was Upper Valley’s fifth in its last seven games and keeps the team alive as it continues to chase the third and final playoff spot in the New England Collegiate Baseball League’s Northern Division with 11 regular-season games left on the schedule. It also was the Nighthawks’ first walk-off victory of the summer.

Upper Valley stranded 11 runners, leaving the bases loaded in both the first and third innings before rallying in the ninth. It stranded at least one runner in six of its innings.

But the Nighthawks connected when it mattered most.

“It was a great win because we fought from behind,” said Nighthawks head coach Jason Szafarski. “That’s the second time in a row that we’ve done that. We’re getting scrappy. That’s what it takes to get into the playoffs.”

The Nighthawks trailed, 4-2, headed into the ninth. They put runners on second and third base — with an assist from above.

Chris Berry (North Florida) and Austin Wilhite (Georgia Tech) sent high fly balls into the sky that North Adams fielders lost after their disappeared above Maxfield’s lights. A Berry pop-up eluded SteepleCats third baseman Matt Koperniak (Trinity) and Wilhite’s bomb into center field was lost by Jeff Brown (The Citadel), putting runners on second and third base with no outs. Greg Hardison (UNC-Greensboro) and Anthony Quirion (Lamar) then popped up to North Adams infielders, bringing up Cadena with two outs.

Cadena (Wichita State) was having a rough night, going 0-for-4 with two strikeouts before his late-game heroics. But he was clutch against the SteepleCats, sending a 3-2 pitch from North Adams reliever Dillon Mendel (Rowan) into left field. Berry scored easily, and Wilhite beat the throw home to tie the game.

“I got worried (in the ninth); we had Quirion and Hardison up. Those are our guys, and they didn’t get the job done,” Szafarski said. “Ross was struggling tonight. He came up with a big 3-2 hit.”

It hasn’t been easy lately for Cadena, who was batting .200 with runners on base in 40 at-bats this summer. He was also batting .160 with runners in scoring position.

“The last couple of months, I’ve been getting a lot of off-speed (pitches), so I’ve had to adjust,” said Cadena, from Grapevine, Texas. “I was looking for a curveball.”

Meduri, the next batter, connected on the first pitch he saw from Mendel to score Cadena and send the Nighthawks home with a victory.

“Slider,” Meduri said of the game-winning pitch he connected with. “I saw that (Mendel) was throwing a lot of sliders, and I’ve been seeing the off-speed pitch really well lately. I was just sitting on that.”

The late-game drama covered up what was a rough night for Upper Valley hitters.

Ty Adcock (Elon) opened the scoring by coming home from third on a wild pitch from SteepleCats starter Chris Cepeda (St. Thomas Aquinas) in the second inning. It was the only run Upper Valley could muster in its first five frames. Overall, the Nighthawks left 10 runners on base in their first six innings.

Jordan DiValerio (Saint Joseph’s) made Upper Valley’s longest start of the summer on the mound, allowing six hits and three runs (two earned) and two walks in seven innings. He was burned by Mendel — who played shortstop before taking the mound in the ninth inning — twice in two innings, giving up RBI singles in the fifth and seventh innings that helped give North Adams a 3-2 lead.

“He felt good,” Szafarski said of DiValerio. “With the stretch of games we have coming up, we needed a guy to log some innings..”

The SteepleCats’ Tony Ortiz (Missouri-Columbia) added a run in the eighth off of Nighthawks reliever Jordy Allard (SNHU) that gave the visitors a two-run cushion. Allard gave up two hits and a walk in an inning. Ryan Parker recorded a strikeout in the ninth.

Upper Valley plays four more games over the next four days, beginning tonight on the road against the Sanford Mainers, its first trip to Goodall Park this season. The Mainers (18-13) slipped from second place to third in the Northern Division with an 11-2 loss to Keene (20-14) on Wednesday night. The Nighthawks enter today’s action only one game behind Sanford; the two teams play four times before the postseason begins in early August.

Brian Weissert (Fordham) is scheduled to make his second start of the summer today. He has pitched five innings and allowed no runs, one hit, one walk and struck out three in two appearances.

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

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