WHITE RIVER JUNCTION, Vt. — It’s been a long, topsy-turvy kind of climb, but the Keene Swamp Bats are atop the NECBL’s Northern Division standings.
A ninth-inning Upper Valley Nighthawks rally fell short in a 7-6 loss to the Keene Sunday at the Maxfield Sports Complex.
The win vaults Keene (21-14) to a half-game lead over North Adams.
Also Sunday, the league announced its All Star Game rosters. The Northern Division squad will feature eight Keene players, including two starters.
Upper Valley (20-15) slipped to third place with its third consecutive defeat, all by one run. Keene won the regular-season series between the two North rivals, 3-2, and now holds a tiebreaker edge on the Nighthawks on any postseason tiebreaker.
Keene makes the shortish journey to Holyoke, Mass., today to play the Valley Blue Sox in a 3 p.m. start.
Upper Valley next travels to Goodall Park for a meeting with the Sanford Mainers Tuesday.
Upper Valley starter Jordan DiValerio struck out 12 over seven innings but gave up four runs on seven hits and a walk as the Swamp Bats took a 4-1 lead into the sixth inning. Keene added to it with back-to-back home runs on Upper Valley reliever Taylor Gibson in the eighth and another run in the ninth.
On the second pitch to start the top of the eighth, Will Wagner launched a no-doubter to right, his fifth of the season, to make it 5-1.
Three pitches later, David Bedgood belted his 14th and franchise-record-tying homer, to right field.
The Keene single-season home run mark has stood for more than 20 years. Bedgood will take aim at that in his remaining games, as well as three other team offensive categories.
The Nighthawks managed only two hits — including a solo home run from Cole Frederick — until the seventh inning. Frederick’s second homer of the game, another solo shot, kicked off the comeback, as Upper Valley scored five times on eight hits in the final three frames.
Down 7-3, the Nighthawks scored three runs in the ninth. Dan Bolt came home on an error, Gregory Hardison plated Brian Moore and Hardison scored on a sacrifice fly from Jack Zyska. David Marcano represented the potential tying run on first base, but Anthony Quirion popped up to right field to end the game.
Keene starter Zach Messinger, who gave up 14 runs in his previous two starts, was almost flawless as he notched his third win. The University of Virginia product, a right-hander, went seven strong innings for Keene, giving up three runs.
Kevin Welsh was 3-for-5 with three singles and started multiple rallies for Keene, and Bednar had an RBI double.
Also in the game, Wagner, besides his home run, knocked in Bednar for his 26th run batted in on the season. At the time, it staked the Bats to a 4-1 lead.
8 Swamp Bats to All-Star Game
Eight Keene Swamp Bats players were selected on Saturday to the Northern Division roster for the NECBL All-Star Game.
The NECBL All-Star Game is Sunday at Montpelier Recreation Field in Vermont. First pitch is set for 5:30 p.m.
Keene’s Ryan Hogan (St. John’s) was selected as the starting catcher and David Bedgood (Tulane) as one of the starting outfielders.
On top of his record-tying home run total, which leads the NECBL, Bedgood also leads the league in runs scored (41) and RBI (38) and ranks sixth in batting average (.373).
Hogan transferred from the Martha’s Vineyard Sharks and made his Keene debut on June 27. He’s batting .301/.363/.466 with three homers and 13 RBI.
Picked as reserves were Randall Bednar (Maryland), outfield, Logan Mathieu (Liberty), first base; Joe Simeone (UConn), relief pitcher; Will Wagner (Liberty), second base; Kyle Ball (Stetson), third base; and Kevin Welsh (Rutgers), shortstop.
For the fifth straight season, NECBL fans will have their voices heard for the final player selections. From now through Thursday at 11:59 p.m., fans can vote for one of 13 players nominated by the league for the 2019 NECBL All-Star Game Fan Vote.
The players with the most votes from each division will take to the diamond Sunday as the 30th members of each team.
Keene’s representative is outfielder Andrew MacNeil. Among the other candidates is pitcher Derek Duffy, a rising senior at Franklin Pierce playing for the Danbury Westerners.