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Nighthawks Notes: Bigfoot might be easier to find than available pitchers

  • Nighthawks pitcher Ryan Parker throws from the mound in their game against the Keene Swamp Bats on Thursday, June 21, 2018, at the Maxfield Sports Complex, in White River Junction, Vt. (Valley News - August Frank) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 7/6/2019 9:53:13 PM
Modified: 7/6/2019 9:53:11 PM

Last year’s Upper Valley squad was decimated by injuries to its outfield, leaving the Nighthawks on the outside looking in of the NECBL playoff picture for the first time in team history. This season, injuries and departures to the bullpen have left the Nighthawks calling all over searching for arms.

“I’m fairly certain I will find Bigfoot before I find an available pitcher for the rest of this summer,” Upper Valley president Noah Crane wrote in a tweet from the team’s account on Tuesday.

Former Nighthawks pitchers Danny Wirchansky, now with the Milwaukee Brewers organization, and Bill Maier both responded asking if they had any eligibility left.

The exodus started two weeks ago.

First it was Cal Carver, the Wichita State lefty who lost his eligibility with the program and needed to go home to find a new school.

Brooks Gosswein, from Bradley, was shut down after feeling pain in his throwing arm. Jason Hudak, from UNC-Wilmington, also left with arm pain. Davis Mikell, the Castleton returnee, is headed to the Martinsville Mustangs in the Coastal Plain League, looking for more at-bats. Phillip Sanderson, from UNC-Greensboro, also is set to go home in the next few days for undisclosed reasons.

In response, Upper Valley put on the full-court press — reaching out to recently released pitchers from the Cape Cod League, having players and coaches reach out to teammates, friends and any available players they might know, scanning transaction lists from other summer leagues to try to find anyone looking for a new home.

The effort seems to have worked. Upper Valley is set to add three new pitchers: West Georgia’s Ryan Parker, a returning player to the Nighthawks from last summer, Taylor Gibson, a Spring Hill College pitcher who is friends with the Nighthawks’ Will Carnley, and Kellen Spann, a West Alabama commit who pitched for Upper Valley head coach Keller Bradford at Mississippi Delta Community College this past spring. Bradford it the pitching coach at MDCC.

Parker was 3-2 with a 3.50 ERA in 25⅔ innings, nine games and four starts for the Nighthawks last summer. Gibson was 4-5 in 11 starts and 47⅓ innings with a 5.51 ERA at Spring Hill and Spann was 2-2 with a 5.63 ERA in 12 appearances and 40 innings for MDCC.

All three additions are set to join the team this week.

“Some guys are getting hurt, we’re having to throw guys out there on back-to-back days on some rest that they’re not ready for just because we don’t have anybody else,” Nighthawks head coach Keller Bradford said last week. “It’s a credit to the guys pitching so well and keeping us in the ballgame.”

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On the mend: Avery George isn’t anywhere to close to 100 percent just yet. But the Nighthawks’ center fielder is getting there, and feels well enough to stick around as the NECBL season begins its second half.

George, the junior from Lamar University, missed eight games after Upper Valley’s 7-1 win over the North Adams SteepleCats on June 23 after re-aggravating patellar tendinitis in his right knee on a diving defense play in center field at Joe Wolfe Field. It’s an persistent injury that’s bugged him for a while. The only thing George can do, he said, is rest.

“It’s a recurring thing over the past two years,” George said before Friday’s game against the Keene Swamp Bats. “It’ll hurt really bad for a while, then I’ll rest it, then it’ll come back. … The only thing I can really do is rest it. Rest it, stretch it, ice it and hope it gets better.”

The native of Humble, Texas, was hitting well before going down. He was batting .264 in 11 games before the injury with four RBIs, five walks and four stolen bases. George returned to the Nighthawks lineup in game two of a doubleheader against the Sanford Mainers last Wednesday, going 0-for-2 with a walk and a run scored.

George admitted he’s thinking about heading home, operating at about 60 percent with less than a month remaining in the summer season.

“I’d much rather, instead of keeping playing on it and hurting it more and more, if I can rest it and get ready for the spring season,” George said. “It feels OK. It’s not 100 percent, but I can still play on it.”

Jack Zyska, from Notre Dame, and Gehrig Anglin, from Wright State, have played center field for the Nighthawks in George’s absence.

Paxton Thompson, Upper Valley starting pitcher from Bradley, also is on the mend with a left oblique injury he suffered in a game against the Valley Blue Sox on June 27. He remains on the roster and is undergoing treatments and physical therapy in an attempt to return later this summer.

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




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