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Blue Sox drop 3-2 pitcher's duel at Upper Valley
Jackson Svete got the start for the Valley. The LIU-Brooklyn right-hander came into tonight’s game with a 5.40 ERA in 18.2 innings, but had done a great job of keeping the Sox in every game he pitched. The Blues were 3-1 when Svete got the ball coming into this important contest. After retiring the first eight batters he faced, Svete allowed a solo home run to Nighthawks’ number nine hitter, Jack Zyska, to make it 1-0. Zyska finished the night 2-2 with a walk and two runs batted in for Upper.
Meanwhile, the Blue Sox had a difficult time getting anything started against Upper Valley’s hurler, Jordan DiValerio. The 2018 NECBL All-Star came into the game with a 1.80 ERA in 25 innings pitched. The sub-2.00 ERA ranked second in the league amongst qualifiers entering play Saturday. Through five innings, the Valley had no runs on three hits, and had yet to get a runner into scoring-position. The three base knocks came from Nate Monastra, Cody Littlejohn and Michael Wroth.
That all changed in the sixth, however. After DiValerio got the first two outs of the frame, Upper Valley’s defense imploded. Back-to-back two-out errors by the second and third basemen gave the Blue Sox runners on the corners with two outs. After a walk to Collin Mathews, Danny Ryan (Fairfield) stepped to the plate. In the clutch, Ryan ripped a two-run single to center field to tie the game at two and give the Blue Sox new life. Meanwhile, DiValerio’s night was over.
Svete came back out for the sixth inning and got two outs before allowing back-to-back base-runners to prolong the inning. That forced manager John Raiola to bring Seton Hall righty Hunter Waldis out of the bullpen. Waldis delivered with a punch-out and kept the score tied at two. Waldis had thrown 5.1 scoreless innings out of the ‘pen entering this one. Svete finished the night with a solid two runs allowed over 5.2 innings, and one strikeout. He once again gave his team a chance to win a ballgame.
But the game changed once again in the bottom of the seventh. After a lead-off double by Andrew Cossetti, and a one out walk to Zyska, the Nighthawks had runners on the corners for the top of their order, in a prime scoring opportunity. That was followed by a fielder’s choice ground out that brought home the go-ahead run and gave Upper Valley a 3-2 lead after seven innings of play at the Maxfield Sports Complex. Waldis did all he could to wiggle out of the jam, but this was a game of inches that favored Upper.
After a quiet eighth inning on both sides, the Blue Sox mounted a rally in the ninth. Collin Mathews (Kent State) led the inning off with a double, and Danny Ryan reached on an error. Following a strikeout, the Valley took a major risk. Not a team that steals man bases, the two base-runners executed a perfect double steal to get two runners in scoring position with one down. Tension was building for Upper Valley closer Aaron Haase, as a hit would likely give the Sox the lead.
However, it wasn’t meant to be for the Blues. Cody Littlejohn smashed a line drive up the middle, but it caught a piece of Haase, and ricocheted right to second baseman Anthony Quirion who threw home to retire Mathews. The Blue Sox had one more chance with Isaac Alexander at the plate, but there was no magic on this night. A ground ball to second ended the game at 3-2 and dropped the Blue Sox to a game-and-a-half out of a playoff spot. Next up is a home bout with the Vermont Sunday at 5:05pm.
Recap by: Jake Graziano