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Notebook: Nighthawks in high orbit

  • Jonathan Hogart of the Nighthawks rounds third on his way to score agains the Keene Swamp Bats at Maxfield Sports Complex in Hartford, Vt., on Thursday, June 30, 2022. (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

  • Johnny Decker of the Nighthawks, right, tags back to first as Garrett Rice, of the Swamp Bats, left, waits for the throw from the mound during their game at Maxfield Sports Complex in Hartford, Vt., on Thursday, June 30, 2022. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. James M. Patterson

  • Nighthawk Seth Logue starts on the mound against the Keene Swamp Bats at Maxfield Sports Complex in Hartford, Vt., on Thursday, June 30, 2022. (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

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 6/30/2022 9:38:57 PM
Modified: 6/30/2022 9:38:56 PM

The Upper Valley Nighthawks may still be looking up at their in-state rivals in the New England Collegiate Baseball League’s North Division standings, but an offensive surge propelled them to a recent five-game winning streak.

Entering Thursday night’s home date with Keene, the Nighthawks (10-8) were in second place and in position for a wild card playoff spot despite being seven games back of the league-best Vermont Mountaineers. Upper Valley will have a prime opportunity to make up ground with four head-to-head meetings with the Mountaineers in the next nine days, three of which will be played at Maxfield Sports Complex.

As recently as the middle of last week, though, the Nighthawks were two games under .500 before winning five straight, a streak in which they scored at least seven runs in each game, with a trio of 10-run outbursts. The Keene Swamp Bats ended that streak by handing Upper Valley a 3-2 loss Wednesday evening, holding the Nighthawks to just two hits.

“Guys are starting to find their swings,” manager Justin Devoid said after last Friday’s 10-1 win over the Mystic Schooners. “They’re taking the extra swings they need to, and it’s showing out here. We’re getting baserunners, we’re able to move and run, and that’s the game we want to play to stay in these games and beat these teams.”

If possible, Eastern Illinois infielder Ryan Ignoffo has gotten even hotter over the last week, driving in at least three runs in four straight games and homering in back-to-back wins over the Danbury Westerners. Ignoffo leads the NECBL with seven homers and 30 RBIs, with 11 more runs batted in than anyone else.

Ignoffo’s torrid bat is benefiting the rest of the Nighthawks’ offense as well. He occupies the third spot in the lineup, batting behind College of Charleston outfielder Tyler Sorrentino and Canisius infielder Max Grant. Sorrentino scored three times in both Friday’s and Sunday’s wins, and Grant had three hits Sunday against Danbury.

Behind Ignoffo, hitters like Troy catcher Clay Stearns and St. Joseph’s infielder Luca Trigiani are taking advantage of their opportunities with runners on base.

“Especially with the top-of-the-order guys, knowing (Ignoffo) is behind them, they’re not taking too many chances, and they know they’re going to score from second base with him up,” Devoid said Sunday. “It’s definitely a big confidence boost to our lineup. The guys behind him hopefully can turn it around, too, so if teams stop pitching to him, we have some protection.”

Meanwhile, a number of new faces have emerged for the Nighthawks’ pitching staff. Seth Logue and Ryan Hagenow, who both pitch at Kentucky, were cut from the Cape Cod League but found their new summer destination with Upper Valley.

Logue made his Nighthawks debut in relief against Mystic last Friday and was sharp, striking out five, walking none and allowing just one hit in three scoreless innings. Hagenow debuted two days later with a scoreless inning against the Westerners, and he got his first start Wednesday in Keene, allowing just an unearned run in 2⅔ innings.

“I got a couple days under my belt out here before my first game, so I got comfortable with the guys and the area,” Logue said. “Fastball, cutter, slider, changeup — I was able to throw all four for a strike, so that was big for me.”

Logue relieved Jack Choate that evening after five strong innings from the 6-foot-8 left-hander out of Assumption College. Choate entered Thursday having allowed just one run on six hits over 14 innings this season, with 19 strikeouts.

The Nighthawks have five other pitchers — Austin Wainer, Randall Alejo, Tommy Peltier, Chris Lotito and Matthew McShane — who have thrown at least 10 innings and sport an ERA below 3. Choate and Alejo, who live with the same host family, are both from Division II colleges, with Alejo pitching for College of St. Rose, so they are relishing their opportunity to pitch in what is broadly considered the nation’s second-strongest college summer league.

“There’s not a ton of guys from Division II playing in this league, and me and Randall playing in the same conference, it’s pretty cool,” Choate said. “It’s been going well. You’re not coming from a Vanderbilt or a big Division I school where your coach can help you get on a team. (But) if you can play, you can play.”

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


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