×

Nighthawks Notebook: Coach Doling Time to Catchers for Multi-Hit Games

  • Eddie Modica

  • Wichita State University sophomore Ross Cadena, of Grapevine, Texas. 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.

  • Bryant Bowen



Valley News Staff Writer
Saturday, June 30, 2018

Upper Valley Nighthawks head coach Jason Szafarski needed a way to rotate his three catchers into the lineup on a regular basis. Why not, he thought, get them motivated at the same time?

Szafarski last week tasked his catchers — Wichita State’s Ross Cadena, Long Island University’s Eddie Modica and Southern Mississippi’s Bryant Bowen — with a challenge: Get two hits in a game and you stay in the lineup, catching one day and playing designated hitter the next. Fail to get two hits, and you’ll be rotated out.

“It’s an easier way to motivate them,” Szafarski said on Thursday. “It’s hard having three catchers and getting them all at-bats.”

Cadena has certainly risen to the occasion. He is batting .323 in nine games for Upper Valley this summer and entered Friday’s contest with the Plymouth Pilgrims on a five-game hitting streak. He also hit a two-run home run in Tuesday’s 5-3 loss to the Winnipesaukee Muskrats, his first of the season.

Bowen has batted .211 in his first five games for the Nighthawks, going 0-for-4 with a strikeout against the Muskrats. Modica has batted .071 in five games with one hit and three runs scored.

Rain, Rain Go Away: This spring’s high school baseball season had a annoying habit of dragging out longer than anticipated due to an unfavorable weather mix of rain and late-melting snow. That bad luck, it seems, has been extended to the summer season.

A Sunday afternoon tilt and two mid-week home games for the Nighthawks — last Sunday against the Newport Gulls, Wednesday against the Vermont Mountaineers and Thursday versus the Danbury Westerners — were postponed last week due to inclement weather. The Nighthawks have already had four postponements this year, as many as the team had all last summer. Upper Valley had seven postponements and a cancellation in its inaugural season in 2016.

Inside the Slide: Upper Valley’s recent struggles have turned a 8-3 record on June 19 into a 9-7 mark going into the season’s second month, having lost four of their last five games headed into Friday. Here’s a look at the slide, by the numbers:

The Nighthawks have been outscored, 25-18, since a 4-3 loss to the Valley Blue Sox on June 20, a game that saw Valley rally from a three-run deficit in the ninth inning. Upper Valley’s biggest margin of defeat was an 8-3 decision two days later at Valley’s Mackenzie Stadium.

The Nighthawks have committed at least one error and have allowed at least nine hits in all four losses.

Cadena has led the team offensively during the stretch, batting .466 with seven hits, five runs scored and two RBIs in four games. Eric Feliz (Notre Dame) is second on the team, batting .333 with four hits, three runs, four RBIs and a home run.

Matt Tarabek (Fordham) and Anthony Meduri (Binghamton) have gone hitless during the slide. Davis Mikell (Castleton) is 1-for-6 in two appearances, Anthony Quirion (Lamar) is 2-for-16 in four games and Chris Berry (North Florida) is 2-for-19 with a double and a run scored in four games.

Upper Valley pitchers have allowed 48 hits and 15 walks in the last five games. In the previous week, the Nighthawks’ pitching staff allowed 46 hits and 24 walks in seven games.

Silent, but Deadly: Greg Hardison has quietly become one of Upper Valley’s most consistent hitters.

Hardison, the upcoming sophomore from UNC-Greensboro, leads the Nighthawks in batting with a .379 average thanks to 22 hits, three doubles, two triples, 10 RBIs and seven runs scored in 15 games. Hardison holds the fifth-highest batting average in the NECBL and leads the Nighthawks in two offensive categories, hits and triples.

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