Lefty Wirchansky Back in the Nest

  • Danny Wirchansky, of the Nighthawks, pitches against the North Adams Steeplecats at the Maxfield Sports Complex in Hartford, Vt., Wednesday, July 12, 2017. The Nighthawks won 3 - 1.(Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News file — James M. Patterson

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 6/30/2018 11:48:30 PM
Modified: 6/30/2018 11:48:31 PM

White River Junction — Danny Wirchansky had a choice for the second straight summer: Stay home, or join the Upper Valley Nighthawks.

The choice was far less simple a year ago: Stay home and get stronger, or drive north to the Upper Valley for a chance to work on his game. His decision to join the Nighthawks paid off. Wirchansky emerged from last year’s campaign a new athlete, an NECBL All-Star with the confidence and mechanics of an ace pitcher.

One year later, on the mend from debilitating soreness in his throwing arm, Wirchansky had similar options. He could have stayed home and rehabbed his injury. Instead, he returned to the Nighthawks hoping for a little more magic.

“It’s definitely nice to know that I can be back on a field and back where I’m comfortable,” Wirchansky said on this week’s episode of the Valley News Hawks Talk Podcast. “The Upper Valley was a great home for me last summer. I told Noah that I wanted to come back. He said, ‘We’d love to have you.’ ”

Wirchansky, a Stony Point, N.Y., native, gave his Pace University collegiate career a boost during his stay in the Upper Valley, striking out 26 and allowing 31 hits in 39⅓ innings over seven starts last summer. He finished the season with a 4-1 record and a 2.51 ERA. He was also one of the first batch of athletes to appear on the Nighthawks roster in the fall, committing to the team soon after the summer season ended.

His summer ball success continued during his junior season with the Setters. Wirchansky, who started his career at Rockland (N.Y.) Community College before transferring to Pace, started the spring with a 16-strikeout perfect game against Dominican College, retiring all 27 batters faced. He led the team to a 4-1 record in five starts with a 0.64 ERA with 51 strikeouts and two complete games in 42 innings.

“It’s definitely a shock considering last year wasn’t so great,” Wirchansky said in April, referring to his first season at Pace, where he went 4-5 with a 3.31 ERA in 13 appearances and 11 starts. “I will say that going to the NECBL was one of the best things I ever did. It was a huge help improving my stats and as a player.”

But Wirchanky was operating at an unsustainable pace for the Setters, averaging more than eight innings per start. He finally hit a wall on April 5 in a 4-1 win against New Haven in which he threw a whopping 142 pitches in a nine-inning complete game.

“I didn’t really think it was overuse; my pitch count wasn’t that high until that game,” Wirchansky said. “That one game, throwing that many pitches, the cold weather really got to my forearm. It got really tight and inflamed. … Even when I was sleeping, it felt tight and really sore.”

The soreness shut Wirchansky down for the spring. He started throwing again in May and felt very little pain. Pace baseball coach Henry Manning scheduled live at-bats to test his arm, even calling up Wagner University outfielder and former Nighthawk Anthony Godino to take some swings. Everything checked out. Wirchansky rejoined the Nighthawks last Sunday.

Jordy Allard, the Hartford High graduate, Nighthawks bullpen arm and Southern New Hampshire University sophomore, befriended Wirchansky last summer and kept in touch during the spring. The two reconnected when SNHU traveled to Pace in March, and they are now teammates for Allard’s hometown team.

“Danny’s the one guy I really still talk to,” Allard said during an interview at SNHU in May. “I just like his mindset. He came in, had a bad spring, comes in and is unbelievable in the summer. He talked about how it got his confidence back up and how it made him realize that he was good enough. … This spring, he was unbelievable. We watched him pitch once, and he was just nasty. I can’t wait to be with him again this summer and talk about everything.”

Now back in familiar territory with a few familiar faces, Wirchansky gets another chance to build himself back up. He expects another heavy workload at Pace next spring. The Upper Valley got him ready once. He’s counting on his second stint doing the same.

“I definitely feel like I’ve matured as a pitcher, not necessarily worrying about velocity and radar guns,” he said. “Honestly, I think analytics is more important than watching the gun light up. If you can pitch, you’re going to be more successful than a guy who can just throw.”

Wirchansky is scheduled to make his first appearance of the season in the second game of a doubleheader against the Newport Gulls at Cardines Field on Monday afternoon.

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

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