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Nighthawks notebook: Feeling a draft, MLB-style

  • Nighthawks player Danny Wirchansky (33) at Maxfield Sports Complex in White River Junction, Vt., on June 7, 2017. Valley News - Jovelle Tamayo) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.



Valley News Staff Writer
Wednesday, June 05, 2019

WHITE RIVER JUNCTION — Danny Wirchansky has been watching the 2019 Major League Baseball Draft with anxious terror over the past two days, waiting for his name to be called. Then, his phone buzzed on Wednesday afternoon — a notification from the group chat he and his former Upper Valley Nighthawks teammates are all a part of.

“Danny, Danny,” it read. “You got picked.”

The two-time Nighthawk said he cried in relief. Wirchansky, the Pace University left-handed pitcher who was with Upper Valley in 2017 and 2018 was taken in the 25th round, 763rd overall, by the Milwaukee Brewers on Wednesday, one of four former Nighthawks taken in this year’s entry draft.

“It’s definitely a stress relief,” Wirchansky said. “I’ve been really stressed this whole week, just hoping someone would take me.”

Hard-throwing Elon University pitcher Ty Adcock and Vanderbilt University relief pitcher A.J. Franklin from last year’s Nighthawks also were taken in this year’s MLB Draft, as was 2016 Nighthawk Grayson Byrd from Clemson.

Adcock was taken in the eighth round, 246th overall by the Seattle Mariners — the second former Upper Valley representative, along with Troy’s Matt Sanders, to join the organization. Adcock pitched and played the outfield for Upper Valley last summer, batting .380 in 17 games. He also saw 13⅔ innings on the mound with 18 strikeouts.

Franklin, one of Upper Valley’s strongest relief pitchers last summer, landed in the 17th round, 499th overall, with the Kansas City Royals. He finished the summer 0-2 with a 3.22 ERA in 15 games and 22⅓ innings, striking out 24.

Bird, who saw limited time with Upper Valley in its first season, was taken in the 24th round, 732nd overall, by the Chicago Cubs.

Wirchansky was an NECBL All-Star for Upper Valley in 2017, pitching to a 4-1 record and a 2.51 ERA in seven starts. He said he had been in contact with the Brewers scouts throughout the season. Now, he said, the hard work he’s put in can continue at the next level.

“It’s definitely awesome to see a lot of these guys I played with last year go — A.J., Ty,” Wirchansky said. “It says a lot about how good Noah (Crane, general manager) is at grabbing good talent. I was up there for two years and for two years, we always had great talent. You always knew going to the Nighthawks was going to have depth. … I always felt like if I could just get up there, maybe I had a chance.”

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A flair for the familiar: Nighthawks outfielder Avery George hasn’t been this far north in his life. Neither has assistant coach Brandon Eady. It was a rude surprise, then, that the first few days of practice for the Nighthawks have has overcast skies with temperatures in the 60’s.

Luckily for both of them, the New England Collegiate Baseball League club has with it some familiar faces this summer — making the transition to a new team, with new teammates, in a new place much easier than expected. For Eady, it was Nighthawks pitching coach Mike Coss; the pair worked together this past spring on the coaching staff at SUNY Cobleskill.

“(Coss) just said, ‘I’m going here. Come along, man. I have the resume I’ll try to hook you up. It worked out.’ ” Eady, an assistant from Cobleskill, said after Upper Valley’s third consecutive day of practice on Wednesday afternoon. “Mike has a lot of passion for the game and loves what he does. He’s an easy guy to work with. His passion rubs off on you.”

The Nighthawks’ season opener against the Keene Swamp Bats was rained out on Wednesday and pushed back to 6:35 p.m. on Thursday night. Upper Valley travels to the Vermont Mountaineers on Friday before opening up the Maxfield Sports Complex schedule against the Danbury Westerners at 6 p.m. on Saturday.

For some, like St. Joseph’s (Pa.) University catcher Andrew Cossetti, the Upper Valley is familiar territory. St. Joseph’s has been sending a representative up to the Upper Valley since the Nighthawks joined the league in 2016. Cossetti, from Norristown, Pa., knew what to expect when he joined the team last fall.

“Obviously a couple guys (from St. Joseph’s) — Jordan DiValerio, Cole Stetzar — played here last year, and James McConnon caught up here a couple years ago,” Cossetti said. “It’s funny, I’m staying with Jordan’s host family this year. I got to learn a lot about the league and about his host family in particular. I couldn’t be more excited to be up here.”

George, a junior from Lamar University, heard about the Nighthawks from Lamar teammate Anthony Quirion, who was with the Nighthawks last summer. Skyler Pichardo, a senior for Marist College, got a few hints of what to expect from Coss, a former Marist pitcher, and Frankie Gregoire, a former Marist outfielder who was also with the team in 2017.

“I asked (Quirion) about how the league was,” George said with a smile. “I’ve never been this far north at all in my life. I’ve been to Maryland. Is that close? He did tell me the weather is pretty nice up here. That was exciting.”

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Off and running: Upper Valley’s early-season lineup is starting to take shape with three practices under its belt.

Paxton Thompson, the 6-foot-1, 190-pound sophomore from Bradley University, is slated to get the start when the Nighthawks open the season against Keene. Thompson saw only 7⅔ innings in seven appearances for Bradley this spring. Upper Valley is 1-2 in season openers in its first three seasons and is 6-2 all time at the home-run-friendly Alumni Field.

Nighthawks head coach Keller Bradford said Phillip Sanderson, the 6-2 righty from UNC Greensboro, and Cal Carver (Wichita State), Upper Valley’s lone lefty pitcher, are scheduled to get starts this week. Marist’s Pichardo and Wichita State’s Aaron Haase are expected to take bullpen roles.

In the outfield, Bradford expects Lamar’s George to take center field with Bradley senior Dan Bolt in left field and Notre Dame sophomore Jack Zyska in right. Wright State sophomore Gehrig Anglin is expected to start at third base against the Swamp Bats with Lipscomb senior Brian Moore at shortstop and N.J. Institute of Techology junior David Marcano at second base.

Bradford said the coaching staff is still deciding on where it’ll use Lamar’s Quiroin, UNC-Greensboro’s Greg Hardison and St. Joseph’s catcher Cossetti. Quirion is expected to get some time behind the plate, at first base and as the designated hitter for the Nighthawks.

“I actually like that we got three days of practice in before we play our first game,” Cossetti said. “I think we all got to know each other a lot better and know how each other plays. … I think we have a good group that can win some games here this year.”

The Nighthawks expect to have most of its listed roster, with perhaps a few new additions, by the beginning of next week.

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