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Nighthawks’ season is off to an uneven start

  • Upper Valley Nighthawks Manager Justin Devoid heads to the dugout after ending an inning on a double play against Sanford at Maxfield Sports Complex in Hartford, Vt., on Tuesday, June 14, 2022. The Nighthawks won 6-3. (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 pitcher Randall Alejo, left, and catcher Clay Stearns have a quiet conversation on the mound during their game with the Sanford Mainers, at Maxfield Sports Complex in Hartford, Vt., on Tuesday, June 14, 2022. The Nighthawks won 6-3. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. valley news photographs — James M. Patterson

  • Logan Eickhoff, of the Nighthawks, chases the ball toward home while stuck in a run-down against the Mainers at Maxfield Sports Complex in Hartford, Vt., on Tuesday, June 14, 2022. The Nighthawks won 6-3. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. valley news — James M. Patterson

  • Upper Valley Nighthawks Manager Justin Devoid has an exchange with an umpire on his way to the dugout between innings with the Sanford Mainers at Maxfield Sports Complex in Hartford, Vt., on Tuesday, June 14, 2022. The Nighthawks won 6-3. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 6/17/2022 11:41:40 AM
Modified: 6/17/2022 11:41:30 AM

The Upper Valley Nighthawks reported to Maxfield Sports Complex for the 2022 season on June 4 — just three days before their first game. And that’s not even accounting for the players who are still yet to arrive due to their college seasons running long.

But eight games into the season, six of which have been on the road, the Nighthawks are molding with each other quickly, even though second-year manager Justin Devoid said his team has not gotten off to the start they had hoped.

Devoid, a Quechee native and 2013 Hartford High graduate, played for the Nighthawks while at Division III Colby-Sawyer College. He took over the team last season and continues to work as an assistant coach at St. Lawrence University in Canton, N.Y.

“We’re getting a bunch of guys from different backgrounds, so you have to have your coaching style be pretty consistent, but also be adaptable for each guy,” Devoid said. “They all have different things they’ve been taught, so it’s good to talk to them and see what they do in their programs and learn from everybody.”

It’s been an up-and-down start for the Nighthawks (4-4), currently in third place in the New England Collegiate Baseball League’s North Division. Two of the wins have come against the cellar-dwelling Sanford Mainers, and another was against the North Shore Navigators, the last-place team in the Coastal Division.

William Sullivan, a rising junior at Troy University who led the Nighthawks with seven home runs last year, has been the squad’s best hitter again in 2022, batting .391 in seven games and slugging the team’s first long ball in Saturday’s home opener against the Winnipesaukee Muskrats.

The Nighthawks’ other returning player is Kyle Novak, a rising senior at James Madison who led the Dukes with 49 RBI this spring. Novak got off to a rough start in the NECBL this year, but went 3-for-4 in the second game of Wednesday’s doubleheader at Martha’s Vineyard.

Devoid has also been impressed with Tyler Sorrentino, a rising sophomore at the College of Charleston who missed the first two games but has occupied the leadoff spot since. Another incoming sophomore, Max Grant of Canisius, is the only Nighthawk besides Sullivan with a .300 average so far.

“We have some guys who (were) true freshmen and sophomores, and they have pretty good at-bats, hit the ball really hard,” Devoid said. “We are a pretty aggressive team. We’ve been swinging at the first pitch a lot, which could be a good thing, but right now, we’ve just been missing. The adjustment that they’ve made over the last couple games has been pretty impressive, and I can see it start to move forward in the direction we want to go.”

Randall Alejo and Jack Choate — both out of Division II programs — have been the Nighthawks’ best starting pitchers. Alejo, who pitches for the College of St. Rose, started in both of Upper Valley’s wins over Sanford, tossing four one-hit innings in the season opener and allowing one run in six innings on Tuesday evening.

Choate, of Assumption College, has given up just three hits in nine scoreless innings over two starts so far.

The Nighthawks have also gotten solid mound work from Bryant University’s Austin Wainer (six shutout innings in his lone start) and Seton Hall’s Chris Lotito (five scoreless innings over three relief appearances), among others. Tyler Legere and Trey Nordmann, both of Lipscomb, have handled closer duties.

“Most of the guys, the leash is short because we want to keep their pitch count low,” Devoid said. “We don’t really want guys throwing over 80 pitches, and some guys have those pitch counts already set for them from their coaches at school. We have to really manage the pitching staff, because we have a decent amount of guys who are on a pitch count or inning count.”

Devoid says he walks a fine line between playing to win every game and making sure the Nighthawks’ players are fine-tuning the things they need before they return to school in the fall. Upper Valley reached the NECBL semifinals last year, but by the time the playoffs rolled around, the roster was severely depleted as several players wanted to spend time at home before the new school year.

This year’s Nighthawks will soon get some reinforcements, including Matthew Adams, who pitched 23.2 innings for a Southern Mississippi team that reached the NCAA Super Regionals before losing to in-state rival Ole Miss.

“Obviously, there is something (to play for) at the end of the season with the championship,” Devoid said. “But the beginning of the season is a good way to get some guys to play in some more games, move them around. Toward the end, we’ll start to have a clearer picture on who’s going to be in there when we have the playoffs.”

Benjamin Rosenberg can be reached at brosenberg@vnews.com or 603-727-3302.


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