×

Finding a groove: After a slow start, Frederick brings  a blazing bat to the Nighthawks

  • Upper Valley Nighthawks hitter Cole Frederick at bat on Wednesday, June 26, 2019 in White River Junction, Vt.(Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.



Valley News Staff Writer
Saturday, June 29, 2019

WHITE RIVER JUNCTION — If this most recent stretch isn’t Cole Frederick’s best streak as a hitter, it’s got to be pretty darn close. And boy, that would really be something.

Frederick, the Upper Valley Nighthawks third baseman, was named the New England Collegiate Baseball League Hitter of the Week last week in what was probably the easiest decision from the league’s higher-ups who make those weekly choices.

His numbers were, and still are, outstanding as the season hits its midway point: a .447 batting average with 21 hits in 47 at-bats, 10 runs scored, three doubles, one home run and 12 RBIs. His batting average is a league high, and has remained so for the better part of two weeks.

He’s also stolen five bases in 11 games for the Nighthawks, solidifying his place in both their infield as a consistently strong fielder at the hot corner and in the power part of their lineup. Frederick leads Upper Valley in RBIs and is second in hits behind Greg Hardison.

“I’m just seeing it well, making a lot of good contact,” Frederick said on Friday before Upper Valley’s 5-0 win over the North Adams SteepleCats  

Not bad for a guy who couldn’t buy a hit — with a winning lottery ticket or any similar large influx of cash — to start his sophomore season at Jacksonville (Ala.) State. He was down early on last spring, Frederick admitted this week. His confidence was shaken. He wondered what he could possibly be doing wrong.

Then, in almost an instant, it clicked. A game-winning, walk-off home run over Eastern Illinois on March 8 shook the cobwebs, just as the Gamecocks began play against Ohio Valley Conference opponents. Over the next 48 games, Frederick turned a .189 batting average into a .287 by season’s end. He finished his spring at Jacksonville State second on the team with 75 hits and 49 runs scored. He also had 38 RBIs, 14 doubles and six home runs while starting all 61 games.

“The first few days (of the spring season), I just couldn’t find a hole. Everything I hit went right to somebody,” Frederick said. “Then, after that it was kind of like, ‘When is it going to start clicking?’ I really got down on myself, didn't really have any confidence, just hoping it would it would happen instead of trying it make it happen, like (thinking), ‘keep swinging.’ I was hoping I would just get lucky instead of using my skill.

“Once I hit that home run it was like, ‘Alright, I’ve got this.’ ”

Frederick is a Tuscaloosa, Ala. native and a Hillcrest (Ala.) High School graduate, leading his prep school to 130 wins in his four varsity seasons. Hillcrest was ranked among the best in Alabama Class 6A rankings by the Alabama Sports Writers Association, helping the team to a 30-9 record and a state semifinal appearance as a senior.

He also played football in high school, the starting quarterback for a team that went 11-1 with 2,900 yards and 29 touchdowns in his senior season.

But baseball, Frederick said, was his first love. He started playing T-ball when he was 4 years old. When Jacksonville State came calling, the offer was too good to pass up.

“I was always a good contact hitter,” he said. “I tore it up my first year (playing machine-pitch baseball), when I was 7. When I was 8, my dad moved me up to 9-10 (the age range of seeing real pitchers). I only pitched one year off the machine and I’ve always been pretty decent putting the bat on the ball.

“I had two brothers (one older, one younger). That’s all we did growing up. We were always doing something.”

Frederick’s resurgence seems to have carried over to the Upper Valley, having arrived late due to Jacksonville State’s run during the NCAA Division I tournament.

He batted .688 two weeks ago to win NECBL Hitter of the Week, going 11-for-16 with three doubles and a home run. He also put together an eight-game hitting streak that was snapped in an 0-for-4 performance against the Valley Blue Sox on Thursday. The hit streak included six multi-hit games and two games when he went a perfect 4-for-4.

“I would say that one of the things that makes Cole so good is that he has a quick memory,” Nighthawks head coach Keller Bradford said. “He doesn’t take his defense to the plate and he doesn’t let at-bats blend. He can adjust to pitches mid at-bat and always knows what he’s looking for. That's kind of one of the reasons he doesn’t swing and miss more than one time an at-bat.”

It’s an offensive production rate that probably isn’t sustainable over the course of a two-month season — at least Frederick admits as much. But it’s a solid start to an important summer for Frederick’s baseball career, one that he hopes gets him a bit of national notice when scouts eventually come calling.

“(A big summer) would be big-time, going into my junior year,” Frederick said. “I don’t know if the draft is a possibility or anything like that. But having a good summer momentum-wise, it carries over. Exposure-wise, it carries over. That would be big time.”

“(I have to) keep doing the little things, don’t just start slacking off because I had a good start.”

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