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Nighthawks Notebook: All signs point to stealing more bases

  • 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.

  • Gehrig Anglin (4) of the Upper Valley Nighthawks poses for a portrait at the Maxfield Sports Complex in White River Junction, Vt., on Monday, June 3, 2019. (Valley News - Joseph Ressler) 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

It barely takes a hand signal to give an Upper Valley Nighthawks baserunner the go-ahead to try to steal a base. For some, if not most of this year’s squad, the green light is always on.

Just like Upper Valley head coach Keller Bradford likes it.

Death, taxes and stealing bases. The latter has quickly become as much of the Nighthawks’ most reliable consistencies through its first month of the season. It’s a key part of the team’s strategy: keeping opposing catchers on edge, allowing Nighthawk baserunners to be mobile and active and engaged, daring opposing defenses to try and stop them.

“Most of the time, I don’t even put anything on. They’re going.” Bradford said on Thursday. “I have a sign to put it on over there at third base. Half the time, I do it. Half the time, they kind of know what pitch to go on. It’s nice to not have to worry about it.”

It’s a part of the game, Bradford said, that has gone by the wayside, especially in this day and age of the glorified home run. It’s no wonder, then, that Upper Valley leads the league in both stolen bases and attempted stolen bases at the season’s halfway mark, putting the Nighthawks on pace to steamroll the New England Collegiate Baseball League’s single season record for swiping bags.

The Vermont Mountaineers hold the league record with 118 stolen bases, set in 2011.

“We’re not upset whenever we get caught stealing, it’s part of who we are as an offense,” Bradford said. “We’re not going to hit a lot of home runs. A few, sure. … It’s one of those things where I talked to the guys early, as soon as they got here. We knew what the plan was from day one. We knew we were going to steal. I think everybody has become a better baserunner because of it.

“We put a guy in scoring position immediately,” he added. “We single, we walk, we get hit, we reach on an error, whatever it is we have a guy who can steal second base. All of a sudden, we’re one hit away from a run. … Anything we can do to get a guy in scoring position, we’re going to try and do it.”

UV is far-and-away the NECBL’s speediest bunch, stealing a whopping 48 bases on 62 attempts through its first 15 games of the 42-game season; the Nighthawks have been caught stealing 14 times, second behind the Danbury Westerners’ 20. Gehrig Anglin (Wright State) leads the league with 13 stolen bases — further solidifying his position batting second in the Upper Valley lineup. David Marcano (NJIT) and Cole Frederick (Jacksonville State) have five stolen bases each.

Anthony Quirion (Lamar) said this team’s affinity for the stolen base has made the offense fun to be a part of on this week’s episode of the Valley News Hawks Talk Podcast.

“We are getting guys picked off, but I think it’s worth what we’re getting out of it,” Quirion said. “You look at Gehrig Anglin — he gets to first base and then two pitches later he’s on third base, in scoring position. … That puts us in a position where we know there is always someone in scoring position when I go up to bat.

“As a hitter, I love it. They’re moving around without me having to swing the bat. They’re making it easier for everyone.”

Bradford said the team steals record, as much as a championship title, is on his radar.

“I don’t feel like we’re going to lead in home runs, doubles, even RBIs,” Bradford said. “But if we can lead in stolen bases and be somewhere near the top in runs, that’s what we’re trying to do. Anything we can do to try and take an extra bag.

“I think that base running is really undervalued at this point in time.”

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Vanderbilt features familiar talent in CWS win: Vanderbilt University defeated Michigan to win the 2019 NCAA College World Series last week with a roster that featured some familiar faces.

The Commodores have a long history of sending their players to the NECBL, and the Nighthawks are no exception, with Walker Grisanti, A.J. Franklin and Paxton Stover all donning Upper Valley uniforms during the club’s four-year history. Franklin and Grisanti were both on the Vanderbilt roster during its tournament run; neither one of them played against Michigan.

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Valley Adds Scoreboard, Displays Trophy: The Valley Blue Sox’ Mackenzie Stadium features a new scoreboard this season, a bright purple display in left-center field high above the home bullpen is a relative upgrade from the skinny scoreboard it featured in years past.

The stadium also features the NECBL’s championship trophy, the Fay Vincent Cup, as one of its vendor stations near the concession stands. Valley won back-to-back titles in 2017 and 2018, defeating the Nighthawks in the opening round of the playoffs two summers ago.

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NECBL’s Halfway Mark: Upper Valley enters the halfway mark of the season with two players leading the league in two very important statistical categories.

Frederick, the Jacksonville State third baseman, remains the NECBL’s most consistent hitter, batting with a league-high .447 average in 11 games. He had an eight-game hitting streak snapped in a 3-1 loss to the Blue Sox on Thursday, a game in which he went 0-for-4 with a strikeout, and six of those games were multi-hit games for the Tuscaloosa, Ala. native.

Jordan DiValerio, the St. Joseph’s pitcher, is also tops in the league with a 0.69 ERA in two strong starts for the Nighthawks. The returning NECBL All-Star is 2-0 with 15 strikeouts in 13 innings ahead of his appearance against the Sanford Mainers on Saturday.

Other NECBL leaders through the season’s first four weeks include Keene’s Luke Albright with 30 strikeouts, Danbury’s Christian Allegretti with three wins, Vermont’s Corey DiLoreto with 15 RBIs and Keene’s David Matthews with six home runs.

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