More than 1,300 Keene SwampBats fans made their way to Alumni Field Friday to enjoy the sights, sounds and smells of summer ball for the first time in two years.
It was a fairly uneventful season-opener for the SwampBats, where the crowd was lively, but the bats were not.
The Upper Valley NightHawks broke the game open in the seventh inning on their way to a 9-0 win over the SwampBats Friday at Alumni Field.
“We just didn’t have it together,” said head coach Shaun McKenna. “You can’t make errors, you can’t walk so many batters and expect to win a baseball game.”
Even before that seventh inning, the SwampBats couldn’t get anything going offensively or defensively in the season-opening loss. The team only mustered up two hits and committed three errors, all of which led to runs.
Only two of the NightHawks’ nine runs were earned.
Upper Valley took an early 3-0 lead in the top of the second inning — all scored with two outs — then got another run across in the fifth and five more in the seventh.
Carlos Guzman and David Bryant had the only hits for Keene.
Keene’s best scoring opportunity came in that fourth inning, when the SwampBats had the bases loaded with just one out, but Jared Payne grounded into a double play to strand the runners and end the inning.
Zach Davidson took the mound for the SwampBats. The hard-throwing lefty struggled to find the zone for much of the evening. It took him 48 pitches to get through the first two innings. He found himself in a handful of 3-2 counts early which didn’t help with the pitch count.
He went four-plus innings, giving up four runs, one of which was earned.
Calvin Bickerstaff took over for Davidson in the fourth. He went 2.1 innings, striking out two batters and walking four.
Lenny Washington came in after Bickerstaff got into some trouble in the seventh and Washington allowed the big inning. Three of the five runs that came across were charged to Bickerstaff and the other two were Washington’s responsibility, but only one was earned.
Washington struck out four in 2.2 innings of work.
“Lenny Washington came in and competed his butt off,” McKenna said. “It was nice seeing what he did there. Definitely a bright side.”
The SwampBat pitchers combined to walk ten NightHawks and hit two batters.
Jack Keegan got he start for Upper Valley and went four innings and striking out five.
Randall Alejo pitched three perfect innings with six strikeouts before Zane Kmietek came in to finish the job.
The SwampBats try again Saturday at Alumni Field against the Sanford Mainers at 6:30 p.m.
“We’ll compete again tomorrow,” McKenna said. “That’s the beauty of it. Come right back in the park tomorrow.
“It’s fantastic to be back out here, listening to the crowd,” McKenna said. “Just wish we could’ve gave them a little better showing but we’ll get there.”