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Mainers Snap Nighthawks’ Streak

  • Sanford's Brad Czerniejewski lays down a bunt to advance the runner against Upper Valley at the Maxfield Sports Complex in White River Junction, Vt., on June 14, 2018. The Mainers won, 5-2. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Upper Valley's Gregory Hardison gets safely back to second base ahead of the tag by Sanford's Jake Alu in the first inning of their game in White River Junction, Vt., on June 14, 2018. The Mainers won, 5-2. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Nighthawks pitcher Levi Thomas throws from the mound in the first inning of their game against the Mainers in White River Junction, Vt., on June 14, 2018. Sanford won, 5-2. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.



Valley News Staff Writer
Thursday, June 14, 2018

White River Junction — Too many mistakes by the Upper Valley Nighthawks’ defensive newcomers and not enough juice from a previously reliable hitting corps resulted in a 5-2 New England Collegiate Baseball League loss to the Sanford Mainers on Thursday night at the Maxfield Sports Complex.

The Nighthawks, who entered the game having won four straight, managed only six hits — including four doubles — and committed three errors in the loss to fall to 5-2 in front of an announced crowd of 324. The win extends Sanford’s win streak to four, bringing the Mainers even with Upper Valley in the Northern Division standings.

“Just a sloppy game,” Nighthawks head coach Jason Szafarski said. “We just didn’t take care of the baseball. We’ve got to do a better job of that. I don’t necessarily think they beat us tonight. We beat ourselves.”

Minnesota’s Riley Smith, Troy’s Sadler Goodwin and Southern Mississippi’s Bryant Bowen all made their first appearances in the Nighthawks’ starting lineup. North Florida’s Chris Berry also made his Upper Valley debut at first base. Goodwin, the infielder-pitcher who was Thursday’s designated hitter, was 0-for-3 with three strikeouts. Bowen, at catcher, was 1-for-4 with two strikeouts, Smith, in left field, was 1-for-3 and Berry was 0-for-4.

Sanford got on the board first in the second inning of Troy University pitcher Levi Thomas, who was making his Upper Valley debut on the mound. Sanford’s Tyler Solomon (Vanderbilt) started off with a lead-off walk. A single from Brad Czerniejewski (Texas Christian) put runners on first and second base for Nick Howie (Eastern Kentucky), who launched an RBI single to left field to drive in Solomon. Czerniejewski later advanced to third base on a wild pitch and scored one batter later, racing home as Bowen threw a dropped third strike to first base to catch Sanford’s Harrison Salter (Michigan).

“You have a new wave of guys coming in, you’re trying to get comfortable with them, seeing what they can and can’t do,” Szafarski said. “Maybe put them in positions they haven’t played a lot this spring, positions that they’re going to be expected to play in the fall. We’ve just got to be better overall.”

Upper Valley tied the game in the third inning. Eric Feliz (Notre Dame) and Alvin Melendez (Fordham) launched doubles off the Maxfield fence, with Melendez getting an RBI. Matt Tarabek’s sac fly to right field later scored Melendez from third base, tying the game 2-2.

Sanford took back the lead with back-to-back one-run innings in the fifth and sixth. The Mainers added an insurance run in the ninth. Upper Valley managed only three hits after the second inning.

Thomas allowed four hits, two runs and a walk in four innings, striking out seven.

“I thought he threw the ball really well,” Szafarski said. “Early on, he was a little bit up in the zone. They fouled off a lot of pitches and got his pitch count up a little bit. He has stuff to be our No. 1 this summer.”

West Georgia’s Greyson McLeod settled in during his second outing with the club, allowing two runs, one earned, with two hits and two walks in four innings in relief with five strikeouts.

“Definitely a lot better,” said McLeod, who was shelled for seven runs on six hits and three walks last Friday in a 10-5 loss to the Keene Swamp Bats. “The biggest thing today was not getting ahead on guys, for sure. ... (The first start) definitely gave me a real competitive mindset for this next week trying to get better, trying to fix everything I was doing wrong last week. It was definitely a humbling experience.”

Jack Ipsen (Bryant) allowed one run on one hit in the ninth inning, striking out two. Cole Stetzar (Saint Joseph’s) recorded the final out.

Melendez had another strong game at the plate for Upper Valley with two hits, a run scored and an RBI. He is 7-for-13 with two runs scored, three doubles and three RBIs since taking over for injured Arkansas State outfielder Drew Tipton batting lead-off.

Greg Hardison (UNC-Greensboro) was 1-for-3 with a double and a walk. The Nighthawks lead the NECBL with 20 doubles.

Still, Szafarski was disappointed with the defensive effort. Upper Valley has committed at least one error in six of its first seven games and multiple errors in four of them.

“We just can’t give free bases away like that,” Szafarski said.

Upper Valley has an off day today. The Nighthawks travel to Montpelier on Saturday night for their first meeting with the Vermont Mountaineers at 6:30 p.m. at Recreation Field.

Notes: Castleton’s Davis Mikell, Wichita State’s Hunter Gibson and Ross Cadena and Long Island University’s Eddie Modica were all given days off on Thursday. … Thomas threw 24 pitches in the first inning, with two strikeouts and putout at first base. … Anthony Quirion (Lamar) went 0-for-4 against the Mainers, his first game without a hit since June 7 vs. North Adams. … Reid VanScoter (Binghamton) is scheduled to start against Vermont on Saturday.

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