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Devoid Filling a Void for Nighthawks

  • Hartford High graduate Justin Devoid will be a senior first baseman with the Colby-Sawyer College baseball team this fall.

  • Hartford High graduate Justin Devoid will be a senior first baseman with the Colby-Sawyer College baseball team this fall.

  • Hartford High graduate Justin Devoid hit .411 in 19 games for the Colby-Sawyer College baseball team this spring.

  • Justin Devoid



Valley News Staff Writer
Tuesday, July 26, 2016

 

White River Junction – It didn’t take long for Justin Devoid to feel right at home with the Upper Valley Nighthawks. Though ineligible to play in Sunday night’s 11-6 win over the Winnipesaukee Muskrats, Devoid took time during pregame batting practice to introduce himself to his new teammates, including first baseman Charlie Concannon, who now sits in front of him on the Nighthawks depth chart.

“Everyone was great,” Devoid said on Monday. “It didn’t seem like my first day.”

For Devoid, a Quechee native and senior first baseman at Colby-Sawyer who was signed to Noah Crane’s NECBL expansion franchise on Saturday, the experience was a little surreal. The Nighthawks, largely banged up by an arduous two-month season, are suddenly in need of warm bodies. Crane also signed American International College third baseman K.J. White and Plymouth State infielder Eric Leitch over the weekend.

But as the Hartford High graduate made his introductions Sunday night to the Nighthawks, he — at least a couple of times — received an inevitable response from a team largely comprised of athletes from Division I baseball powerhouses: Where’s Colby-Sawyer?

In joining Upper Valley for the final week of its inaugural season in the middle of a push for the playoffs, Devoid wants to make a name for himself and his school.

“I’m really excited to be part of the Nighthawks,” he said. “Being from Colby-Sawyer, we don’t get to see a lot of guys go big. I want to make a name out there, play my heart out this week and hopefully take my game to the next level.”

Devoid, who graduated from Hartford High in 2013, was hanging out with some friends on Saturday when he got the call from the Nighthawks’ general manager.

“I couldn’t believe it,” Devoid said. “It was a really big surprise.”

Considering Devoid’s progress this past spring with the Chargers, particuarly offensively, the opportunity could have been expected. He started 19 games for the D-III school , amassing a .411 batting average with 12 runs, 23 hits, seven RBIs and only eight strikeouts, all career bests for Devoid.

“I feel like I’ve grown not just as a player, but as a teammate,” he said of his spring successes. “I’m going into my senior year, I want to be a leader on the team. … If you lead yourself, you can lead others. … Hard work has helped me keep going.

“It’s really refreshing to know that all the hard work pays off,” Devoid added. “Getting this opportunity is one of the greatest things. For a D-III guy, we don’t get a lot of looks. Some of these guys are from great schools. It’s awesome playing with these guys. … It’s great to be able to hone your skills. This can only help me get better.”

Upper Valley’s infield has seemingly been in a state of transition since the season’s first few weeks, as infielders Grayson Byrd, Matt Maul, Blake Rowlett and Brian Mims all departed the team midseason. In the beginning of July, the Nighthawks were down to their final four infielders with Maul, Al Molina, Zack Canada and Concannon. The team signed second baseman Austin Embler, an everyday starter since his arrival, on July 6.

For Crane, adding some infield depth late in the season will relieve some stress on his team’s worn-out starters.

“The guys are tired,” Crane said. “We’re also shorthanded with injuries and other defections. We needed some depth. … K.J. is a good player, he had good numbers at AIC. For a weaker D-II program, he’s a good player. We’re not going to get a freshman from Division II or Division III; we want someone with experience, some background. K.J. was the perfect fit. At this point, those are the guys left available.”

Having Devoid so close to home made the addition a no-brainer, especially since he wouldn’t need a host family.

“Justin was right next door,” Crane said. “It was more we needed some depth, and he was right in our backyard. He had a nice season at Colby-Sawyer, so we said why not give him a shot?

“It’s also a good story for us,” he added. “The local angle, have his friends, parents, teachers, neighbors are all going to show up. It helps us from an attendance perspective. We want to be the Upper Valley’s baseball team. People like to see the local guys do well; it’s neat to add Justin and give him a shot.”

 

Devoid knows he doesn’t have much time to prove himself. Upper Valley will play seven games in seven days starting this afternoon as the Nighthawks play a makeup game with the Vermont Mountaineers at Montpelier’s Recreation Field at 3:30 p.m.

“I know I probably won’t get in them all, but I want to show these guys what I can do,” Devoid said. “That’s really all I can do. I guess you’re playing with a chip on your shoulder; just got to go out and try your best.”

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