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Nighthawks Notes: Upper Valley Stepping on Gas at the Right Time

  • Stevens High graduate Chase Hussey, shown competing for Lebanon American Legion Post 22 in 2016, has joined the Upper Valley Nighthawks’ pitching staff for the stretch run of the NECBL season.



Valley News Staff Writer
Saturday, July 28, 2018

The Upper Valley Nighthawks have found another gear in the regular season’s final stretch. It’s gotten the surging team back into playoff contention for the third straight season. It’s also righted the ship after hitting a low point two weeks ago.

The Nighthawks dropped both ends of a Maxfield Sports Complex doubleheader to their in-state rivals, the Vermont Mountaineers, on July 15, 10-6 and 5-2. The back-to-back losses snapped a three game win streak and gave the Mountaineers a 3-2 lead for the Governor’s Cup series, which concluded on Saturday.

Since then, Upper Valley has been on a tear.

The team entered its Friday matchup against the Valley Blue Sox with a 6-2 record over a 10-day stretch, outscoring opponents 33-23. The Nighthawks have gotten quality starts from its trio of starting pitchers, Saint Joseph’s Jordan DiValerio and Cole Stetzar and Troy’s Levi Thomas. The team is 4-0 in this recent stretch when its starters go six or more innings. Vanderbilt’s A.J. Franklin has emerged as the team’s go-to stopper, leading the way with eight saves and a 3.37 ERA in 14 appearances.

The offense has also come alive. Georgia Tech shortstop Austin Wilhite continues to be the team’s leader, batting .450 with nine hits, including two doubles, and four RBIs over the last seven days. UNC-Greensboro’s Greg Hardison is batting .412 in the same stretch with seven hits. Ty Adcock, a hard-throwing relief pitcher who has transitioned into playing the outfield, is also batting .412 for the Nighthawks in five games.

If the Nighthawks are in need of anything, it’s production at the bottom of their lineup. Minnesota’s Riley Smith is hitless in his last seven games, and Ross Cadena and Bryant Bowen are a combined 4-for-30 over their last five despite winning the everyday confidence of Nighthawks head coach Jason Szafarski.

Brotherly Love: Brian Weissert is a New Yorker. He grew up in Bay Shore, N.Y., attends Fordham University and is a fan of the New York Mets. Depending on how things go, however, he may have to change his professional baseball allegiances.

Weissert’s brother, Greg, was a No. 18 selection of the New York Yankees in the 2016 MLB draft. The right-handed pitcher now plays for the high Class A Tampa Tarpons in the Yankees’ organization, and currently has a 6.30 ERA in eight appearances and 10 innings pitched. Weissert said if his brother ever makes to the Bronx, his Mets fandom may have to be put on hiatus.

“If he makes it all the way to the top — which I believe he can — he’s unbelievable. He’s incredible,” Weissert said on this week’s episode of the Valley News Hawks Talk podcast. “When that happens, I’ll be a Yankees fan.”

His brother’s influence is also part of the reason why Weissert has adopted his unique delivery, a long stare in to the catcher with his throwing arm hanging low.

“I was talking to my brother about it; he played at Fordham before me,” Weissert said. “I knew what I was getting into before going into college. He was like, ‘You should think about just throwing out of the stretch just to simplify things. It’ll clean up your delivery and everything, help you be more consistent.’

“My freshman year, I stayed with the windup. I didn’t listen to him. I was stubborn. … The following year, in the winter, we were just throwing the ball around and I said, ‘You know what? I’m going to try out that stretch thing.’ I figured out that if I lean in, it’ll really help me focus, so I can only see the catcher giving the signs. That’s what I’m focused on.”

Weissert, who missed about a month of the NECBL season to back inflammation, has a 0.93 ERA in five appearances and two starts for the Nighthawks this summer.

Minor League Update: Matt Sanders is batting .176 in six games and 17 at-bats for the Arkansas Travelers, the Double A affiliate of the Seattle Mariners. … Minnesota Twins prospect Ryan Jeffers was called up to the Single A Cedar Rapids Kernels this week after batting .422 in 28 games for the rookie league Elizabethtown Twins. … Chicago Cubs prospect Luke Reynolds is batting .281 in nine games with the Eugene Emeralds, the short-season Single A Cubs affiliate. … Pittsburgh Pirates prospect Cam Alldred has a 1.80 ERA in 15 innings and 11 appearances for the short-season Class A West Virginia Black Bears.

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