On the honor roll: Nighthawks earn major NECBL awards

  • Upper Valley Nighthawks hitter Cole Frederick at bat on Wednesday, June 26, 2019 in White River Junction, Vt.(Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News — Jennifer Hauck

  • Upper Valley Nighthawks pitcher Aaron Haase reacts to an umpire's call during a New England Collegiate Baseball League game against the Vermont Mountaineers at the Maxfield Sports Complex in White River Junction, Vt., on June 21, 2019. Haase, who earned the second of his league-high nine saves in a 1-0 win, was named the NECBL's top relief pitcher on Aug. 13, 2019. (Valley News file — Greg Fennell) Valley News file photograph — Greg Fennell

Valley News Correspondent
Published: 8/14/2019 9:27:51 PM
Modified: 8/14/2019 9:27:42 PM

WHITE RIVER JUNCTION — The Upper Valley Nighthawks continue to provide an outlet for exceptional college baseball players to get even better. It’s to the point where, four years since joining the New England Collegiate Baseball League, it’s difficult not to compare strong season-long performances with previous Nighthawks standouts.

Add two more names to the ever-growing list of all-time greats.

Upper Valley infielder Cole Frederick and reliever Aaron Haase were selected among the NECBL’s best when the league announced its end-of-year awards on Tuesday.

Frederick, from Jacksonville (Ala.) State, was honored as the league’s batting champion; Haase, from Wichita State, earned the Joe Nathan Award as the NECBL’s top relief pitcher.

Frederick, a two-time NECBL hitter of the week and first-team all-NECBL selection at third base, finished his summer with a league-leading .396 batting average over 39 games. It was an average that never slipped below .375 after his second game with the team and stayed above .400 for most of the summer.

Frederick led the league in hits with 61, finished second in triples (three) and OPS (1.106), third in the league in total bases (102) and finished in the league’s top 10 for home runs (eight), RBIs (38) and on-base percentage (.444).

Frederick and Haase are the first NECBL postseason award winners in the Nighthawks’ four-year history.

“It definitely feels rewarding,” Frederick said over the phone on Tuesday. “Just everything, being able to reap those benefits. … I never really thought about (the recognition). I was just hoping I could go up there and have a good summer. It was fun.”

It was a continuation of an incredible spring for the Tuscaloosa, Ala., native, who struggled in the start of his sophomore season at Jacksonville State. But a walk-off home run against Eastern Illinois sparked his confidence, pushing a .189 average to .287 by the end of his collegiate season. He also finished second on the team with 75 hits and 49 runs scored, starting all 61 games for the Gamecocks.

“I gained a lot of confidence as a hitter, confidence in myself,” Frederick said. “Being to see that I can hit .396 at this level, hopefully I can carry that over. Obviously, it takes a toll on your body, I was lucky I didn’t have any injuries.

“It was nice to see that I can do it for all 39 games that I was there for. I went on tears in college, but it was great to see that I could do it all season.”

Haase, also named to the all-NECBL first team, was just as dominant, morphing into one of the league’s most effective closers. He finished his summer season with nine saves and two relief wins in 17 games, the latter number one shy of the league lead by any pitcher. He went home with a 2.61 ERA over 20⅔ innings with 40 strikeouts and 11 walks.

“(The recognition) kind of surprised me a little bit,” Haase said in a Tuesday phone interview. “It was a good summer. I wasn’t expecting much.

“My biggest takeaway from this summer was remembering that it’s just a game. A silly game. It can be serious at this level, but it’s still a game. … I’m just going to keep working and play the best that I can.”

The Amarillo, Texas, native said he isn’t sure if he’s closing for Wichita State next year. But both Haase and Frederick hope strong college seasons and some recognition with the Nighthawks can put them on the right path one year away from MLB Draft eligibility.

“If I keep doing things the same way, knowing that there is a possibility, I can go really hard all year and put in the work,” Frederick said. “Not that I wasn’t before, but this year in particular. It’s definitely nice. I didn’t even know that was a possibility, in a league like that. It did help me a lot.”

The NECBL completed the awards process by naming Mystic’s Terry “T.T.” Bowens its most valuable player on Wednesday. The Central Connecticut State first baseman, who was also named the league’s top pro prospect on Tuesday and an all-league first-teamer on Monday, led the league with 16 homers and 53 runs batted in. He also won the NECBL’s Home Run Derby at the rain-shortened All-Star Game in Montpelier earlier this month.

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