Nighthawks Notebook: Walking Wounded Heading Home

  • Notre Dame senior Eric Feliz, of Englewood Cliffs, N.J. 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

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 7/14/2018 11:42:21 PM
Modified: 7/14/2018 11:42:22 PM

Summer seasons in the New England Collegiate Baseball League are a war of attrition. In most cases, champions are crowned based not on the collegiate teams they are able to recruit from in the spring, but on the healthy rosters they are able to muster once the playoffs begin in August. A key injury or two and the players that replace sidelined teammates can define an NECBL season.

The Upper Valley Nighthawks have learned that lesson the hard way in their first three years. They seem to be at one of those season-defining crossroads yet again as they headed into this weekend’s key matchups against Northern Division foes.

Seven athletes from the team’s starting roster — two pitchers and five position players — have left, are leaving or potentially could depart the squad, leaving the Nighthawks shorthanded. The departures and injuries are as follows:

Greyson McLeod, West Georgia: McLeod appeared in five games, with one start, for Upper Valley this summer, going 0-3 in 15⅓ innings pitched with 17 strikeouts, 14 hits and eight walks. He returned home last week with a back injury.

Hunter Gibson, Wichita State: Gibson struggled at the plate during his time with the team, was batting .137 in 16 games and 51 at-bats with the Nighthawks. He was sidelined with an elbow injury and has not appeared in a game since July 5. He headed home this week.

Drew Tipton, Arkansas State: Tipton was one of Upper Valley’s most consistent hitters to start the season, playing a key role as a leadoff batter and in center field. He suffered a separated shoulder on July 4 against the Vermont Mountaineers and never fully recovered.

Alvin Melendez, Fordham: Melendez was something of a dual threat for the Nighthawks. The speedster was a dangerous top-of-the-lineup option for the team, batting .290 with 20 hits, nine runs and five stolen bases. He was hit on the hand with a pitch during Tuesday’s doubleheader with the Danbury Westerners and broke his wrist.

Eric Feliz, Notre Dame: Feliz was batting .328 in 20 games and 64 at-bats for Upper Valley, leading the team with eight doubles and tying for third with 11 RBIs. He, too, broke his wrist after being hit by a pitch and, like Melendez, left the team this week.

Brody Lawson, UNC-Wilmington: Lawson has been one of the Nighthawks’ best pitchers. He entered the weekend with a 3-1 record and a 4.05 ERA in four starts and five appearances with 23 strikeouts. Lawson has been called back to UNCW to work with the program’s new pitching coach.

Reid VanScoter, Binghamton: VanScoter has made more starts (six) than any other Nighthawk so far this summer. He’s pitched 27⅔ innings — a team high — and has allowed 30 hits, 20 runs, six walks and struck out 19. Upper Valley coach Jason Szafarski said VanScoter has developed tendinitis in his throwing arm, however. His status is uncertain.

Nighthawks general manager Noah Crane said this week that he is actively searching for replacements.

Down With the Kids: Thetford Academy baseball coach Phil Chaput has taken on the task of community outreach for the Nighthawks this summer as part of an internship tied to a master’s degree in athletic leadership from Castleton University. Why not, he thought, bring Upper Valley athletes to summer camps around the area and let them interact with the kids?

Chaput did just that on Thursday last week, bringing SNHU’s Jordy Allard, Vanderbilt’s A.J. Franklin and North Florida’s Chris Berry to Hartford’s Camp Ventures at the Wendell A. Barwood Arena for an hour of questions, games and activities.

The Nighthawks trio ended their hour with a coordinated dance to Flo Rida’s Club Can’t Handle Me. Chaput said he is taking a group of players to Lebanon’s Camp Kaleidoscope day camp later this month and hopes to hear back from more camps before the summer is over.

“That’s what it’s all about,” Chaput said. “They’re college kids. (The kids) see them on the field; if they get a ball, they get really excited about it. To see them right up close, it’s nice to have that.”

Nighthawks at Fenway: The Boston Red Sox had Vermont Day at Fenway Park last Monday, a yearly tradition honoring the Green Mountain State. Upper Valley’s blue and black mascot — named Nico? Screech? No one is 100 percent sure — joined Red Sox mascot Wally the Green Monster, Vermont Mountaineers mascot Skip and others at the ballpark. Nighthawks intern Max Clifford, a Windsor High student, was inside the suit for game, which also had several Upper Valley players in attendance.

Rookie Waves: Ryan Jeffers, the former University of North Carolina-Wilmington catcher, former Nighthawk and second-round draft pick by the Minnesota Twins, is getting noticed in the Appalachian League. The rookie is batting .394 in 20 games for the Elizabethton Twins, leading the league in on-base percentage. He also is second in batting average and has eight multi-hit games.

Nothing Doing: Valley Blue Sox starting pitcher Cooper Bradford (North Florida) threw an 11-inning no-hitter against the Sanford Mainers on Friday, a 4-0 win which he allow five walks, struck out 13 and threw 149 pitches. Bradford, a junior for the Ospreys this fall, is 5-1 this season with a 2.14 ERA in six starts.

Josh Weinreb can be reached at or 603-727-3306.

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