Despite stumble, Nighthawks showing promise

North Adams SteepleCats’ Cedric Rose (46) tags first base before Upper Valley Nighthawks’ Adarius Myers can reach it during a game at Maxfield Sports Complex in White River Junction, Vt., on Friday, June 30, 2023. (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.

North Adams SteepleCats’ Cedric Rose (46) tags first base before Upper Valley Nighthawks’ Adarius Myers can reach it during a game at Maxfield Sports Complex in White River Junction, Vt., on Friday, June 30, 2023. (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 photographs — Alex Driehaus

Upper Valley Nighthawks’ Jake Bullard (23) tags out North Adams SteepleCats’ DM Jefferson (30) as he attempts to slide back to third base during a game at Maxfield Sports Complex in White River Junction, Vt., on Friday, June 30, 2023. (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.

Upper Valley Nighthawks’ Jake Bullard (23) tags out North Adams SteepleCats’ DM Jefferson (30) as he attempts to slide back to third base during a game at Maxfield Sports Complex in White River Junction, Vt., on Friday, June 30, 2023. (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

Upper Valley Nighthawks’ Ryan Cesarini (10) hits the ball during a game against the North Adams SteepleCats at Maxfield Sports Complex in White River Junction, Vt., on Friday, June 30, 2023. (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.

Upper Valley Nighthawks’ Ryan Cesarini (10) hits the ball during a game against the North Adams SteepleCats at Maxfield Sports Complex in White River Junction, Vt., on Friday, June 30, 2023. (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’ Jake Bullard (23) follows a slow-rolling ball to see if it will cross the foul line before reaching third base during a game against the North Adams SteepleCats at Maxfield Sports Complex in White River Junction, Vt., on Friday, June 30, 2023. (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.

Upper Valley Nighthawks’ Jake Bullard (23) follows a slow-rolling ball to see if it will cross the foul line before reaching third base during a game against the North Adams SteepleCats at Maxfield Sports Complex in White River Junction, Vt., on Friday, June 30, 2023. (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

By BENJAMIN ROSENBERG

Valley News Staff Writer

Published: 07-01-2023 9:52 PM

WHITE RIVER JUNCTION — Eventually, the Upper Valley Nighthawks’ pitching staff was due for a clunker. The surprising part was that it came against the team with the worst record in the New England Collegiate Baseball League.

The North Adams SteepleCats jumped on just about every Nighthawk pitcher they saw Friday evening at Maxfield Sports Complex, pounding out 14 hits and handing Upper Valley a 14-2 defeat. The Nighthawks (11-5) have lost back-to-back games for the first time this summer, and the SteepleCats have now won four straight after starting the year 1-12.

“We didn’t have any energy,” Upper Valley manager Mat Pause said. “It sucks to lose like this, but sometimes it can get the best out of guys. It obviously wasn’t a good night, but we’ll see how they respond.”

North Adams outfielder Samuel Tackett (Virginia Tech) connected on a pair of three-run home runs to give him the NECBL lead with six for the season. His first blast came off Nighthawks starter Carson Frye (Georgetown) to put his team ahead 5-1 in the second inning, and he went deep again in the seventh off Russell Hunter (Hofstra) with the game already well out of hand.

Left-hander Chase Adams (Southern Mississippi) worked through a shaky inning in his season debut. He allowed back-to-back doubles to start the third, then hit a batter and gave up a bunt single.

His defense bailed him out from there, with third baseman Jake Bullard (Stetson) starting a nifty double play that included a force out at home, and catcher Kory Klingenbeck (Cincinnati) picking off a runner at third.

The Nighthawks’ offense, which had been heating up earlier in the week, could not do much against SteepleCats starter Nathaniel Chudy (Holy Cross), who struck out nine without walking a batter over five innings. Upper Valley managed just one hit in four innings against the North Adams bullpen.

Still, there were bright spots. Outfielder Nick Monistere, coming off a college season in which he hit .320 and slugged .523 for a Southern Mississippi team that nearly made the College World Series, doubled twice and scored both Nighthawk runs. Ryan Cesarini (St. Joseph’s) reached base in all three of his plate appearances with two singles and a walk, raising his batting average to .345.

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“Not so much tonight, but it’s been building where we’re hitting the ball a lot harder and guys are getting a lot more comfortable,” Pause said. “We’re going to look to keep that going.”

Leading the way at the plate is still Adarius Myers, the Louisiana Tech outfielder whose .379 batting average was second in the NECBL entering Saturday. Myers has hit safely in all 15 games he has played in, and he capped a stretch of four straight multi-hit games with a 4-for-5 performance in the first game of Thursday’s doubleheader at Bristol.

“I’m just trying to stay on top of the baseball and not try to do too much,” Myers said. “I’ll swing early in the count if I get something I feel like I can barrel up.”

Another outfielder, Toledo’s Garret Pike, has also come on strong of late.

Pike is the only Nighthawk with multiple home runs, and he had two huge games this past week. Against Ocean State last Sunday, Pike was 2-for-2 with a double, a homer and two walks in a 7-6 win.

The next night against Danbury, he went 3-for-4 with a home run and five RBIs as Upper Valley defeated the Westerners, 7-4, in a game called after eight innings by rain.

“He’s getting pitches he can handle, and he’s capitalizing on them,” Pause said. “This league, the pitching is really good, when you get your pitch, you’ve got to hit it. He’s been aggressive hitting fastballs. I don’t know if that’s an adjustment he made, but he got more comfortable and his timing came back.”

Following Saturday’s trip to Bristol, the Nighthawks’ third meeting with the Blues in three days, Upper Valley will return to Maxfield for an extended stay, with five straight games at home through Friday. Avoiding fatigue will be crucial as the Nighthawks have six doubleheaders on their remaining schedule, five of which are on the road, and they’ll twice play doubleheaders on consecutive days.

“There’s a lot of games and not a lot of days,” Pause said. “Everyone’s going to get an opportunity during those stretches, pitchers and position players. We have a group where guys are ready to go when their numbers are called, so I’m optimistic about that. We’re going to use everyone in those situations.”

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