Nighthawks Notebook: Time running short on playoff hopes

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Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 7/25/2023 9:44:06 PM
Modified: 7/25/2023 9:44:25 PM

MONTPELIER — Time is running out on the Upper Valley Nighthawks.

Monday afternoon’s 5-4, seven-inning loss to the Vermont Mountaineers at Recreation Field was the Nighthawks’ 13th defeat in their last 16 games, and it was a loss that, had Upper Valley played a clean defensive game, could well have been a much-needed victory. Instead, the Nighthawks committed four errors, including two on one play in the first inning, to put themselves in an immediate hole.

“We just have to come ready to play,” Upper Valley manager Mat Pause said. “We gave away too many bases. It’s just a lack of focus at times.”

At 17-20, the Nighthawks were still just a half-game behind the North Shore Navigators for the final spot in the New England Collegiate Baseball League playoffs entering Tuesday, but after holding the league’s best record for a time in June, it’s certainly not the position in which Pause and his team envisioned themselves in the stretch run.

Upper Valley did battle back after falling behind by four runs in the second. Three straight hits, including back-to-back perfectly placed bunt singles, loaded the bases with nobody out in the top of the third. As he has done so often in a Nighthawks uniform, outfielder Adarius Myers (Louisiana Tech) came up with a big hit, driving in two with a double down the left-field line.

A ground out by Matthew Russo (Southern Mississippi) brought home another tally in the inning, and in the fourth, Upper Valley plated the tying run when Russo’s Golden Eagles teammate, Nick Monistere, hit a leadoff double and scored on a pair of infield grounders. But the Mountaineers went back ahead for good in the fifth on a wild pitch by Kentucky’s Christian Howe, who was otherwise sharp in four innings of relief. The Nighthawks failed to get a runner into scoring position in the last two innings against Vermont reliever Maxwell Brulport.

“All we can do is keep coming, playing hard and see what happens from there,” Pause said.

With two more games to be made up, Upper Valley faces a demanding schedule to close out the regular season. The Nighthawks visited Sanford on Tuesday night, host Keene on Wednesday and the Mainers on Thursday, then travel to face the Swamp Bats on Friday evening before heading back up to Montpelier for a Saturday doubleheader and a single game Sunday. The Sunday game will only be played if it carries postseason implications.

Upper Valley still leads the Governor’s Cup series with the North Division-leading Mountaineers, three games to two.

“Guys always get tired. We’re playing a lot of games in a short amount of time,” Pause said. “I’m just trying to figure out when I can rest them, the combinations that work well, giving guys off days. It’s a long summer.”

Bruggeman wins all-star MVP, signs with LA Angels

Catcher Kevin Bruggeman, a day after going 2-for-2 with a pair of RBIs in the NECBL All-Star Game, signed as an undrafted free agent with the Los Angeles Angels. The Hofstra product hit .299 in 24 games this summer with seven doubles, a home run and 14 runs driven in. He started 51 games in the spring for the Pride, batting .325 with a .515 slugging percentage and 50 runs scored.

“Couldn’t happen to a better kid. He works really hard,” Pause said. “Obviously he had a really good summer for us. I’m happy for him. He’ll continue to work hard and try to work his way up in that organization.”

Bruggeman was one of five Nighthawks to see action in the All-Star Game. Myers started in left field and singled and scored a run, and Ryan Cesarini (St. Joseph’s) was the starting designated hitter and drove in a run with a sacrifice fly. Teddy Tolliver (Lehigh) worked a scoreless fourth inning on the mound, and Luis Misla (SUNY Cortland), who won the fan vote for one of the final two all-star roster spots, struck out the only batter he faced in the ninth.

Shortstop Chris Worcester (Eastern Illinois) and outfielder Garret Pike (Toledo) were also named all-stars but did not see any action. Neither has played since July 13.

New faces join Hawks for playoff push

As has become commonplace in the NECBL and other summer leagues, several players head home before the season ends to give themselves recovery time before the new school year starts. The Nighthawks have signed six new players this month, with the headliner being Marist infielder Marco Ali, who started the summer with the Ocean State Waves. Ali went 4-for-5 in a home loss to Keene on Saturday, driving in three runs.

“We’ve got a great group of guys over here,” Ali said. “If we just bring the energy every day and have fun, I think we have a good chance of making the playoffs.”

Catcher Damaurys Rodriguez, a switch-hitter out of Post University, will likely be used more now that Bruggeman has left the team. He started behind the plate Monday against Vermont, going 1-for-3 with a run scored.

Upper Valley’s pitching additions have not performed as well. Nick Pappas (UMass-Dartmouth) has allowed seven earned runs in two appearances covering just 2⅓ innings, and Devin Murray (Hillsdale) gave up four earned runs in his Nighthawks debut last Wednesday against Newport before pitching 1⅔ scoreless innings on Friday at Martha’s Vineyard.

The Nighthawks’ two most recent signees, pitchers Nick Tamburro (Monmouth) and Nick Bousquet (Worcester State) have not yet appeared in a game.

“It’s always good to get extra arms in,” Pause said. “A couple of them haven’t thrown yet, so we’re going to see this week what they’ve got and where they fit into our rotation. More bodies at this point in the year is always good.”

Benjamin Rosenberg can be reached at or 603-727-3302.

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