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Nighthawks Notes: After 0-for-16 Start, Gibson Finding His Stride

  • Wichita State University sophomore Hunter Gibson, of Oologoa, Ok. Portraits of the New England Collegiate Baseball League's 2018 Upper Valley Nighthawks at the Valley News office in West Lebanon, N.H., Monday, June 4, 2018. (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 Staff Writer
Sunday, June 17, 2018

White River Junction — The Upper Valley Nighthawks’ 7-1 win over the New Bedford Bay Sox on Tuesday — against, at the time, the top team in the NECBL’s Southern Division — was as much a cause for celebration as it was a sigh of relief for Wichita State sophomore Hunter Gibson.

Gibson, the 6-3, 220-pounder from Oologah, Okla., finished the game with his first hit of the season, going 1-for-4 with a run scored and a walk. The Upper Valley utility player had gone 0-for-16 with five strikeouts and a walk in his first four games with the Nighthawks. His first hit of the summer triggered a loud reception from the Upper Valley dugout.

“It’s been pretty tough, going (16) at-bats without a hit. Not used to that,” Gibson said on Wednesday. “You’ve just got to stay strong, get through it. All my teammates backed me up, they knew I could hit. Now it’s finally clicking a little bit better. I’m hoping I can ride that out, keep things going and stay comfortable at the plate.”

Gibson followed it up with another hit on Wednesday, going 1-for-3 with a double and a run scored in Upper Valley’s 8-2 win against the Winnipesaukee Muskrats. The slow start, he said, was all about his timing.

“With the wood bat, my bat’s not as quick through the zone. That’s what I think,” Gibson said. “I’m hitting a lot of balls foul to the left side. Being able to get the bat through the zone, to put it in play and drive the ball is what I’m looking for. Getting on time, getting back into rhythm.”

Now that he’s out of the early-season slump, Gibson hopes things will start clicking for him offensively.

“I feel like things will just keep getting better,” he said. “It’s been tough. … All the teammates got a big kick out of it last night, finally getting my first base hit of the summer. I’ve just got to keep it going.”

Gregoire Signs with Blue Sox: Former Nighthawks outfielder Frankie Gregoire signed with the Valley Blue Sox last week after a short stint in the Cape Cod Baseball League, a move that seemed to surprise many with the Nighthawks organization.

Gregoire, the Weatogue, Conn. native and Marist University product, was an NECBL All-Star with Upper Valley last summer. In 34 regular season games, he batted .303 with 37 hits, seven doubles and 30 RBIs. He also scored 23 times and was tied for the team lead with nine home runs.

Since joining Upper Valley’s Northern Division rival, Gregoire has batted .273 with three hits, a double and a run scored in his first three games. Valley knocked the Nighthawks out of the playoffs last summer, eventually winning its first NECBL championship.

Houde Making Waves in Keene: Keene State College right-handed pitcher and Newport High graduate Andrew Houde joined the NECBL’s Keene Swamp Bats late last season, making a handful of appearances in a limited number of games.

One year later, Houde has made the starting roster and he seems to be making the most of his opportunity. Houde is currently 2-0 with a 0.90 ERA in four appearances and 10 innings pitched for the Swamp Bats — all of which are team highs through Keene’s first seven games. He’s struck out eight, walked three, allowed only one run four hits so far this season.

Matt Williams Out at UNCW: University of North Carolina-Wilmington pitching coach Matt Williams was relieved of his duties last week after five seasons with the program.

Williams was a key cog in the Upper Valley Nighthawks’ connections to UNCW, a NCAA Division I powerhouse over the last decade. Nighthawks GM Noah Crane was a recruiting coordinator at Spartanburg Methodist College during Williams’ time as a player. The two have remained close, opening up a pipeline from Wilmington, N.C., to both Crane’s former NECBL team, the Laconia Muskrats, and Upper Valley. The Nighthawks have featured Seahawks’ hitters Brian Mims, Zack Canada and Ryan Jeffers and pitchers Blake Deatherage over the last two years. UNCW pitcher Brody Lawson is currently on the Nighthawks roster.

According to Alex Riley, UNCW beat writer for the Wilmington (N.C.) Star-News, Williams helped cultivate three Colonial Athletic Association Pitchers of the Year during his tenure — Mat Batts (2014), Ryan Foster (2016) and Alex Royalty (2017) — and 12 All-CAA pitching honors. Six pitchers recruited by Williams were drafted. The Seahawks won CAA titles in 2015 and 2018 and advanced to NCAA Regionals in 2015, 2016 and 2018.

Riley first reported that the school would not renew Williams’ contract on Wednesday. The news did not get a positive reception online.

“This guy is one of the reasons I am where I am today,” wrote Kennard McDowell, a UNCW alumnus who now pitches in the Colorado Rockies organization, in a tweet on Thursday. “From life lessons to baseball I learned a lot from Williams. … UNCW you disappointed a lot of people with this one.”

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