Hawks Nest: Florida’s Berry Totally Comfortable

  • Courtesy Photograph—

  • Courtesy Photograph—

  • Upper Valley Nighthawks third baseman Chris Berry, an upcoming senior at the University of North Florida, rounds the bases after hitting a home run against the Keene Swamp Bats on Wednesday night at Alumni Field. Courtesy Photograph

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 7/14/2018 11:42:23 PM
Modified: 7/14/2018 11:42:25 PM

Chris Berry watched his high fly ball sail over the right-field fence at Keene’s Alumni Field and bounce off the roof of the red building next to the parking lot as he rounded the bases on Wednesday night. His bomb against the host Swamp Bats, much like his shots against the Danbury Westerners the day before, was a no-doubter. Berry’s Upper Valley Nighthawks teammates joke that all his hits are home runs.

Based on his recent play, it might not be so far from the truth.

The summer season has been a roller coaster ride for Berry, the University of North Florida senior and Seminole, Fla., native. It started in early June with forearm tightness in his right throwing arm, a nagging pain that lingered for weeks after he noticed it while waking up one morning.

Berry’s first game for the Nighthawks was on June 22; his first hit came two games later. Berry managed only three hits in his first six games with the squad, a stretch in which the team went 1-5 to fall close to .500. He admitted last week that it’s taken a bit of time to adjust, get healthy and get his groove back.

“I woke up one morning and (my forearm) was really tight. I couldn’t straighten it,” Berry said after Wednesday’s 5-1 win over Keene. “I took some time off, got looked at by the trainer. ... I had a rough start, but I’ve been sticking with the process the entire time. I knew I had to make an adjustment. Maybe that time off kind of helped me think about some things.”

It seems his game has returned in just the nick of time.

Berry has transformed into one of Upper Valley’s most dominant hitters. He entered the weekend having gone 11-for-19 in his last five games with four home runs, six runs scored, five RBIs and only four strikeouts. He’s also made a name for himself as the Nighthawks’ go-to leadoff hitter, a position that recently became vacant following the team’s most recent round of departures due to injuries.

“I made an adjustment with my swing. ... I had a leg kick to start the summer. I’ve been working a lot in the cage. I figured if I switched to more of a toe tap, it would help me with my timing a little bit,” Berry said. “It appears to be paying off. I’m sticking with it.”

Berry started 52 games for the Ospreys this spring, hitting .281 with 28 RBIs, 32 runs and seven doubles. He also batted leadoff for North Florida and said it’s a part of the rotation he feels comfortable with.

“I love leadoff,” he said. “I lead off at college. I’m used to it. I feel like I can work the count pretty deep and be pretty selective with the pitches I swing at, just making sure I’m getting the pitches I want to hit and the counts that I want.”

Perhaps most important to the Nighthawks is that Berry’s turnaround has helped produce wins.

Upper Valley is 3-1 entering the weekend stretch, suddenly in a dogfight for the last two playoff spots in the New England Collegiate Baseball League’s Northern Division. Nighthawks head coach Jason Szafarski said Berry will be an important contributor to his squad down the stretch.

“He does a great job working the count, not chasing pitches out of the zone,” Szafarski said on Wednesday. “I think when I had him in the middle of the order, he was trying to do too much. He came up in a lot of situations with runners on base and kind of got out of his comfort zone. It’s good to see him back in the leadoff spot.”

Szafarski and Berry have history. The second-year Nighthawks head coach remembers meeting a 10-year-old Berry at a youth baseball camp while Szafarski was the head coach at Seminole High School in Seminole, Fla. The pair stayed in touch over the years. Berry then played for Szafarski in the Futures Collegiate Baseball League’s Brockton Rox in 2016, after his freshman season at North Florida. By the time Szafarski got the job with Upper Valley at the beginning of the 2017 season, the Nighthawks roster already was full.

“I tried to get him last year,” Szafarski said. “(This year), he’s one of the guys I contacted right away just to get him here because I know the type of baseball player he is.”

Szafarski’s long-term faith in Berry seems to have paid off.

“He’s very patient at the plate and he’s got some power,” the Upper Valley coach noted. “There aren’t too many teams in the league that have a leadoff guy like that.”

Anthony Quirion, Upper Valley’s power hitter who is headed to Lamar University next season, had some success batting leadoff over the last week. But Szafarski said the leadoff spot in the lineup is Berry’s to lose for the foreseeable future.

A coach he’s familiar with, hitting in a comfortable spot in the lineup, has Berry feeling right at home.

“It’s nice to come back and play with someone that I know that I feel comfortable with,” Berry said. “It’s awesome. I’ve had a blast up here.”

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

Sign up for our free email updates
Valley News Daily Headlines
Valley News Contests and Promotions
Valley News Extra Time
Valley News Breaking News

Valley News

24 Interchange Drive
West Lebanon, NH 03784


© 2021 Valley News
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy