Hungry Like the Wolf: Nighthawks Nix Streak

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 7/21/2017 12:23:39 AM
Modified: 7/21/2017 11:11:54 AM

White River Junction — This summer’s Upper Valley Nighthawks are as crazed about the HBO series Game of Thrones as anyone, a shared experience that’s been part of the glue that’s kept this team together. Plot lines are discussed during bus rides and before games. Social media is avoided while episodes are aired to not spoil anything.

So when Upper Valley pitching coach Tom Hudon tweeted, “Leave one wolf alive, and the sheep are never safe,” a reference to the opening episode of Season 7, while at the gym on Thursday morning, he was sure it was vague enough for the Nighthawks — and only the Nighthawks — would get the message.

Consider it a message received. University of Cincinnati starter Cam Alldred gave up two hits, one walk and struck out five over six innings and the Nighthawks’ offense scored enough off 10 hits in a 4-0 win over the Vermont Mountaineers on Thursday night at the Maxfield Sports Complex to snap a three-game skid and clinch the team’s first Governor’s Cup, awarded to the winner of the season series between the New England Collegiate Baseball League’s two Green Mountain State teams.

“It’s good the way we came back out and played today, the pitching bouncing back. Cam did a great job today,” said Upper Valley head coach Jason Szafarski. “We needed that. We needed him to go deep.”

The Cup, an antique milk jug awarded to the Mountaineers last summer, was not in attendance on Thursday, nor was Vermont Gov. Phil Scott. Upper Valley, which had put an emphasis on winning the Cup early in the season, celebrated anyway.

“The last couple of days, with the last couple of losses we’ve had, we felt like this was a game that we needed to win,” said Franklin Pierce outfielder Adam Chase, who was 2-for-4 with a double and a strikeout. “Kind of get this Governor’s Cup thing off of our shoulders, get that out of the way for the fans here so that we can focus on clinching that No. 1 seed. I think winning this was a big step in the right direction.”

One not paying close attention might not have known that Upper Valley (23-12) had spent the last three games wondering where its offense had gone.

The Nighthawks entered Thursday’s game on its first three-game skid of the summer, scoring only three runs in their last 27 innings with Marist power-hitter Frankie Gregoire banged up and Matt Guidry (Southern Mississippi) and Joey Denison (Troy) on the shelf for good with injuries. Then Danny Wirchansky, Upper Valley’s ace from Pace University, struggled against the last-place Sanford Mainers on Wednesday in a 13-2 loss, leaving the Nighthawks coaches wondering what solid ground looked like.

Thursday’s win, a decisive one in which Vermont only managed three hits in all, looked like the Nighthawks squad that was winning games by double digits and racking up win streaks in mid-June.

“I would say our approach came back today,” Chase said. “The last few games, we’ve been chasing balls we don’t normally chase. … It was like we were waiting for someone to get that big hit, but everyone was pressing at the same time.”

Upper Valley’s offense looked like itself again in the fourth inning, giving the season-high 511 fans in attendance something to cheer about. Luke Reynolds (Southern Mississippi) led things off with a single into right field and later scored on a double-play grounder by James McConnon (St. Joseph’s).

Cade Sorrells (Lipscomb) and Adam Chase (Franklin Pierce) followed up with back-to-back hits before newcomer Ethan Harris (Southern New Hampshire), playing his first game of the season, sent a screaming line drive to the second baseman for the third out.

Al Molina (Seton Hall) added to it with a clutch piece of hitting, a one-out, two-run single in the fifth, something the Nighthawks had been missing in the last few days. Anthony Godino led off the seventh with a solo home run to left field, his seventh, to give Upper Valley’s closers a little more wiggle room.

Not that they needed it. Sean Frontzak (Saint Louis) and Cory Gill (Troy) surrendered a hit and two walks combined in the final three innings. Gill, who pitched the eighth and ninth innings, struck out two.

“I didn’t feel like there was a lot of pressure,” said Alldred, who improved to 4-2. “I changed a couple of things up in my routine this week, before this start, so I just tried to stick with the game plan, and it worked out.”

Among the things Alldred changed, he said, was his weightlifting and throwing schedules.

“My last start, I only threw five innings and I just felt gassed,” he said. “I felt real tired early in the game. I didn’t want to feel like that again.”

Getting Upper Valley its first win at Valley’s Mackenzie Stadium was step one in a list of short-term goals Szafarski has used to keep his guys motivated. Winning the Governor’s Cup was step two. The NECBL’s postseason and beyond is now on Upper Valley’s radar.

Notes: Harris was 0-for-4 with a strikeout in his season debut for the Nighthawks. “It was a little bit overwhelming,” he said. “I’m going to be a sophomore this year, so it’s the first time having a summer ball experience. … I definitely want to progress seeing good pitching. That’s why I like this league.” … Charlie Sheehan (1-2, 5.49 ERA, St. Louis) is scheduled to make his sixth start tonight as the Nighthawks make their first trip to the North Adams SteepleCats’ Joe Wolfe Field. First pitch at 6:30 p.m.

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




Valley News

24 Interchange Drive
West Lebanon, NH 03784
603-298-8711

 

© 2021 Valley News
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy