FARMINGDALE — The jabs came early to soften them up. The knockout blow came much, much later.

After squandering a five-run lead, No. 6 Sacopee Valley scored a pair of unearned runs in the top of the 10th inning and held off a final Hall-Dale rally Friday evening, bouncing the defending Class C state champions out of the South regional quarterfinals with a 7-6 win at Parker Field.

The game came up just 11 minutes shy of reaching the three-hour mark following an early-evening start to accommodate graduation activities at both schools. After a nearly two-hour bus ride back to Hiram on Friday night, the Hawks will have a quick turnaround — the team will report back to that same bus at 7:30 a.m. — for its Saturday morning semifinal at No. 2 Maranacook.

“It’s worth it,” Sacopee coach Kevin Miner said. “It’s worth it for the boys, especially the seniors. We have six of them.”

Sacopee (11-6) scored five times in the first two innings off Hall-Dale starter Akira Warren, capped by a two-run home run in the second off the bat of Dylan Miner that handed the Hawks a 5-0 lead.

Miner was nearly as impressive on the mound for Sacopee, holding third-seeded Hall-Dale (12-5) to a single unearned run through the first five innings. But in the sixth things unraveled quickly for Sacopee.

First, Miner hit his 110-pitch limit after recording only one out in the inning, yielding the mound to Brandon Capano with the bases loaded. The Bulldogs strung together a walk, an RBI fielder’s choice and pair of infield singles to tie the game at 5-5.

The only thing missing for Hall-Dale was the kind of hit that would break the game open. Even in a 14-hit effort, the Bulldogs were just 3 for 21 (.143) with runners in scoring position. A total of 19 Bulldogs were left on base, 13 of those at either second or third base.

“We lost some ballgames this season because we had difficult times coming up with that key hit in situations where were could get the go-ahead run or tying run,” Hall-Dale coach Bob Sinclair said. “Unfortunately, that was a little bit of our challenge this season. It’s difficult when it happens in a playoff game.”

In the costly 10th inning, Hall-Dale committed three errors — their first since the first inning — leading to Kaleb Cox’s run-scoring single to center. He’d score an insurance run himself when Bulldog reliever Logan Dupont walked him in with the bases loaded.

“We just kept our heads in it and played Sacopee Valley Hawks baseball,” said Capano, who earned the win in relief despite needing McGwire Sawyer to lock down the final three outs of the contest. “We don’t give up. We just give 110 percent every game.”

Hall-Dale gasped a final breath in the seventh, turning a leadoff walk from Capano to Alec Byron into Patrick Rush’s sacrifice fly to right. Max Byron reached on an error to get the tying run aboard with nobody out, but he was stranded at second — along with the Bulldog hopes of defending last season’s state title.

It was a big step for Sacopee, which had struggled throughout the regular season in battling back from adversity.

“This year’s been a struggle for us on that part of it,” Kevin Miner said. “But they really shined today. They wanted it. They really did.”

After falling into such a deep early hole, then rallying all the way back to knot the score, it proved a devastating and emotional loss for Hall-Dale.

“It was a difficult loss today,” Sinclair said. “I felt like we had our opportunities to win the ballgame, but we didn’t come up with the key hit at the moment we needed it. In the end, I’m proud of the way these ballplayers battled.”

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