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Nighthawks notebook: Roster crunch builds

  • Upper Valley Nighthawks player Tyler Sorrentino slides back to first base while Bristol Blues first baseman Ben Huber attempts to tag him out during a game at Maxfield Sports Complex in White River Junction, Vt., on Monday, July 11, 2022. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. valley news / report for america — Alex Driehaus

  • Upper Valley Nighthawks player Tyler Sorrentino rounds third base during a game against the Bristol Blues at Maxfield Sports Complex in White River Junction, Vt., on Monday, July 11, 2022. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Alex Driehaus

  • Michael O’Hanlon pitches for the Upper Valley Nighthawks during a game against the Bristol Blues at Maxfield Sports Complex in White River Junction, Vt., on Monday, July 11, 2022. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. valley news / report for america — Alex Driehaus

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 7/14/2022 9:19:46 PM
Modified: 7/14/2022 9:19:32 PM

Last season was the best in Upper Valley Nighthawks history. But the farther they advanced in the New England Collegiate Baseball League playoffs, the more dire their roster situation became.

As the summer wound down, several players wanted to spend time at home before returning to college. So many position players were absent for Game 2 of the North Division finals against North Shore that the Nighthawks had four pitchers in their starting lineup. Their season ended that night with a rain-shortened loss.

The coaching staff is doing everything in its power to make sure the Hawks aren’t under a similar roster crunch this year. Pitching coach Chad Sturgeon tweeted Sunday that the team is looking for new outfielders and infielders to finish the season, though he said it was mostly pre-emptive at this point. On Thursday, he tweeted a call for pitchers, asking specifically for those with an average fastball velocity of at least 87 miles per hour with good off-speed pitches.

Even so, the Nighthawks are already dealing with some attrition. Closer Trey Nordmann (Lipscomb), who became a fan favorite thanks to his upper-90s fastball and high-energy entrance song — Avenged Sevenfold’s Hail to the King — was on an innings limit and has already gone home despite not reaching it. Manager Justin Devoid said the two other Lipscomb pitchers, Tyler Legere and Patrick Williams, might also leave before season’s end.

“Every team kind of deals with it around this time of year,” Devoid said. “It’s definitely the dog days of summer here where these guys have played a lot of games, and we’re also in the midst of playing a lot of games without many off days. Guys can get tired, sore, hurt, so I definitely foresee us losing a few guys.”

The Nighthawks have already added two position players this week — infielder Thomas Latham from Cisco (Texas) Junior College and outfielder Adarius Myers from Louisiana Tech. They could be without both their best hitter and starting pitcher soon, with infielder Ryan Ignoffo (Eastern Illinois) and left-hander Jack Choate (Assumption College) hoping to be selected in the upcoming Major League Baseball draft.

The NECBL attempted to cut back on players leaving early by shortening the playoffs so that everything will be decided by the end of the first week in August. Last year’s champion was crowned on August 12, but this year, the regular season is set to end July 30, with the one-game wild card playoffs scheduled for Aug. 1, the semifinal series to be played Aug. 2-4 and the championship series from Aug. 5-7.

“I know some guys have some commitments as far as weddings and things like that, but I don’t know of anybody yet who’s leaving ahead of time,” Devoid said.

The on-field results have not been kind to the Nighthawks of late — at 14-17 entering Thursday, they’re a game behind Ocean State and Valley for the final NECBL wild card spot. They allowed the go-ahead run in the ninth inning of last Thursday’s 4-3 home loss to Sanford before picking up a key 7-6 win at first-place Vermont the next night. In that game, Upper Valley nearly blew a six-run lead, but Nordmann got the final out after a shaky ninth.

The Mountaineers came back with a vengeance Saturday, though, beating the Nighthawks 14-0. Since bouncing back for a stress-free 11-5 win against cellar-dwelling North Shore on Sunday, however, they’ve lost three straight.

Monday’s home tilt with Bristol, which leads the West Division, was especially dispiriting. Upper Valley led by two after three innings before falling behind, then rallied to take back the lead in the eighth. Nordmann wild-pitched home the tying run in the top of the ninth, and the Blues scored the eventual game-winner in the 10th to hand the hosts a 6-5 loss.

The Nighthawks then lost both ends of Wednesday’s doubleheader in Keene, including a 12-1 blowout in the first game.

Ignoffo still leads the NECBL with nine home runs and 40 RBIs, but his triple crown quest appears to be fading — his .392 batting average is fourth in the league and 33 points behind the leader, Winnipesaukee’s Jacob Corson. Outfielder Tyler Sorrentino (College of Charleston) is still holding steady at the top of the order, and Jonathan Hogart (Louisiana Tech) has homered twice so far this week.

Along with Choate, Randall Alejo (College of St. Rose) has been a quality starter, with Matthew McShane (St. Joseph’s) and Chris Lotito (Seton Hall) giving the Nighthawks solid work out of the bullpen. They’ll need someone else to take over the ninth inning after Nordmann’s departure.

“We just need to be on top of getting new guys in to replace guys that we lose,” Devoid said. “The next week and a half will determine what our roster is going to shape up to be.”

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


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