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Nighthawks notebook: Castleton’s Mikell on an early-season tear

  • Upper Valley Nighthawks' Davis Mikell rounds the base path during their game with the Sanford Mainers on July 30, 2018. Mikell, of Williston, Vt., is a student at Castleton University. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Castleton University junior Davis Mikell, of the Upper Valley Nighthawks, 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.

  • Upper Valley Nighthawks coach Mat Pause in Hartford, Vt., on June 8, 2017. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Quirion

  • Hardison



Valley News Staff Writer
Sunday, March 24, 2019

CASTLETON, Vt. — Davis Mikell has been busy on the baseball diamond for a long time.

He played four years of varsity baseball with Champlain Valley Union High before graduating in 2016, and he is now in his third season at Castleton University, playing first base and pitching for the NCAA Division III Spartans. Mikell has also spent two summers with two different teams in the New England Collegiate Baseball League, the Vermont Mountaineers in 2017 and the Upper Valley Nighthawks last summer.

He’s also never had a stretch quite like this.

Mikell entered the weekend batting .587 with 27 hits, five doubles, two triples and 15 RBIs — all team highs — in 12 games so far for Castleton this spring. But it was his day in a doubleheader at Bard College two weeks ago that truly stood out: Mikell went 7-for-7 at the plate in the back-to-back seven-inning contests — which Castleton swept, 13-4 and 13-7 — scoring eight runs with four RBIs, three walks and five extra-base hits.

Mikell earned his third consecutive Little East Conference player of the week honor for his efforts. He was also named the National College Baseball Writers Association’s Division III hitter of the week and made D3Baseball.com’s team of the week.

Not a bad haul for the Williston, Vt., native, who admitted he might be playing his best baseball yet.

“It was kind of a running joke like, ‘All right, we’ll see you at home in a bit.’ I think I had four runs scored,” Mikell said over the phone on Thursday of his perfect hitting weekend against the Raptors. “Every time I was in the on-deck circle, everyone in the dugout would be saying, ‘Oh, we’ll see you at home soon.’

“I was telling someone the other day I don’t think I’ve ever had a performance like that. It seemed like everything was going right. … The baseball looks like a beach ball right now.”

Mikell has gone 9-for-16 with a double and four RBIs in Castleton’s four games since the Bard twinbill, holding his team lead in multiple hitting categories. He batted .244 with 21 hits, eight runs scored and seven RBIs in 30 games for Upper Valley last summer; he was also second on the team with 33 strikeouts.

“We have a group chat (of former Nighthawks) going,” Mikell said. “Ty (Adcock, the Elon University pitcher) is throwing close to 100 miles an hour. Noah (Crane, Upper Valley’s general manager) does a great job making sure former players get recognized. … I really enjoyed my time in Upper Valley.”

Mikell said he’s still a “free agent” for next summer with one more year of eligibility in his back pocket. He said he reached out to Crane in the fall asking about rejoining Upper Valley. The roster, Mikell said, was full when he called. At this point, he’s still weighing his options.

“I’m a junior, and I need to start thinking about finding a job after I graduate, as scary as that is,” said Mikell, who’s studying business management. “I’m fine with whatever happens.”

For now, he’s got a hot streak to preserve. The Spartans (6-6) are scheduled to travel to Skidmore on Wednesday.

“It’s a crazy game,” Mikell said. “Sometimes you’ll go 3-for-10 at the plate, and that’s really good. To go 10-for-12 or whatever, I’m just hitting as well as I can to try and help the team win. It’s baseball. I’m riding high; it’s definitely a hot start.”

Other former Nighthawks have been making an impact around the NCAA baseball and Major League Baseball worlds since the spring season began in mid-February. None have moved as quickly as Ryan Jeffers, the UNCW catcher who played with Upper Valley in 2017.

Jeffers was selected in the second round of the 2018 draft by the Minnesota Twins and played much of his time with two minor league squads. He’s getting another look at Twins spring training this year and is making the most of it, turning the first pitch he saw in his first at-bat with the big club into a two-RBI single into left field. The 21-year-old Raleigh, N.C., native is 1-for-5 in three games at the plate for Minnesota in the preseason and is awaiting his minor league assignment.

Frankie Gregoire, the Marist outfielder who played with Upper Valley in 2017 and the NECBL championship-winning Valley Blue Sox last summer, became Marist’s all-time home runs leader with 26 during a game against North Carolina A&T last weekend. He had a season-high four RBIs in the same game; his 128 career RBIs put him ninth all-time in Red Foxes’ history. Gregoire, a NECBL All-Star during his time with the Nighthawks, was named MAAC student-athlete of the week on Wednesday.

Troy University starting pitcher Levi Thomas, meanwhile, has become one of the Trojans’ most dangerous weapons.

Thomas, who went 1-3 in seven starts with a 4.05 ERA for Upper Valley last summer, entered the weekend with a 3-1 record in five starts and 27⅓ innings, striking out 34 and allowing 10 walks and 27 hits. He was named Sun Belt Conference pitcher of the week last week after fanning a career-high 11 batters in a 5-0 win over North Alabama on March 8, the second-most by any pitcher in the conference this season and the most by a Troy athlete in nearly two years.

Cory Gill, another former Nighthawk from Troy, holds a 4.97 ERA in eight appearances, and Will Carnley sits with an 8.53 ERA in six appearances. The pair is slated to return to Upper Valley’s bullpen this season.

Hartford High graduate Jordy Allard entered the weekend with a 2-0 record in three appearances and two starts for Babson College, his new destination after he left Southern New Hampshire University last year. The Bridgewater, Vt., native finished his summer 1-0 with a 2.73 ERA in 23 innings and 16 appearances for the Nighthawks last summer. He currently sits second on the Beavers with a 1.23 ERA and seven strikeouts in 7⅓ innings.

Allard is slated to return to the Nighthawks this summer, as are Lamar’s Anthony Quirion and UNC-Greensboro’s Greg Hardison.

Quirion, an NECBL All-Star last season, batted .280 with 42 hits, 24 runs, 27 RBIs and six home runs in 41 regular-season games for the Nighthawks. The Dixville, Quebec, native entered the weekend batting .213 in his first season with the Cardinals, managing 16 hits, 12 RBIs, four home runs and eight runs scored.

Hardison, also an All-Star, led Upper Valley with a .351 batting average with 51 hits and 20 RBIs in 37 games. He currently leads the Spartans with a .338 average in 19 games, racking up 25 hits, seven RBIs and two doubles, helping UNCG to a 13-6 overall record, third in the Southern Conference in nonconference play.

Lastly, Hartford grad and two-time Upper Valley assistant coach Mat Pause got his first two wins as the interim head baseball coach of Saint Michael’s College, putting up back-to-back victories over Gallaudet at the Gene Cusic Collegiate Classic at Terry Park in Fort Myers, Fla. Pause is filling in for former Saint Michael’s and ex-Nighthawks coach Jason Szafarski, who left for an assistant coach position at Trinity.

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