Silver Knights will open playoffs in Brockton

NASHUA – It’s official: The Nashua Silver Knights will face the Brockton Rox in the Futures Collegiate Baseball League semifinals.

Game 1 will be Friday in Brockton, with Games 2 and 3 set for Saturday and Sunday in Nashua. The Rox are stuck finishing fourth as Torrington clinched the third seed by earning a split of a doubleheader Wednesday night with the Knights at Holman Stadium before 856.

Nashua took the first game 6-0, but the Titans, whose magic number to finish third was one, bounced back to win the nightcap 8-3 thanks to a six-run fourth inning keyed by five hits and two Silver Knight errors. Torrington will face North Shore (Lynn, Mass.) in the other semifinal series.

During that fourth inning, a key play occurred when a slow roller off the bat of Torrington’s Rich Graef got underneath the glove of Knights third baseman Ryan Gendron, and two throwing errors allowed three runs to score on the play. The Silver Knights got a solo homer from Jon Minucci, his FCBL-leading 12th, but Nashua had trouble putting a big inning together against the knuckleball of Titans righty Jordan Scheiner (2-2). Tom Baroni (3-1) took the loss for Nashua.

The hero of Nashua’s first game win was righthanded pitcher J.P. Ashline. Who? Exactly.

Ashline, a Clinton, Mass., native who starts for Bentley University, pitched in a college league that ended in July in South Carolina, and got a call from the Silver Knights a couple of weeks ago. He’s now 2-0, and came into Wednesday’s game with a 4.50 earned run average, but held the Titans to just five hits, walking one and fanning five.

“He was outstanding,” Nashua manager B.J. Neverett, who in between games was named the FCBL’s Manager of the Year. “He throws strikes, had some nice off-speed stuff, he did a great job.”

Ashline escaped a bases loaded jam in the first and cruised thereafter. Nashua supported him with two runs in the first on RBI hits by Lamarre Rey and Stephen Rogers, and got two more in the third on a Logan Gillis sacrifice fly and James Katsiroubas’ RBI single.

“Just throw strikes so we can save arms for the playoffs,” Ashline said. “That was the job today. … It’s been a good summer. This is a lot of fun. I threw curve ball for a strike, fastball for a strike, just keeping them off-balance. They had to swing, so.”

And the winner is . . .

With the first game win, Nashua moved to 38-12, with the goal for 40 wins, thus Neverett was a shoo-in for top manager. Silver Knights outfielder Connor Lyons was also named FCBL Defensive Player of the Year, while Torrington’s Tyler Dierke (7-1, 0.61) was the obvious choice for Pitcher of the Year. FCBL Commissioner Chris Hall was on hand to make the presentations between games.

Chin gets the call

It’s expected that the Silver Knights will start newly signed Andrew Chin on the mound in Thursday’s 7 p.m. regular season finale at Holman Stadium versus Seacoast.

Chin, who had Tommy John surgery in May of 2011, has had an interesting year. Despite the surgery, he was drafted in the fifth round of the June 2011 draft by the Toronto Blue Jays, but wasn’t able to reach a contract agreement

Thus, he red-shirted while recovering from surgery at Boston College, and he hopes to be a draft prospect in two years.

“My big target to come back is fall ball,” he said. “Hopefully see if I can get one or two innings (Thursday). I’m not going to have my greatest stuff.”

In fact, Chin is still waiting for confirmation from the training and coaching staff at Boston College to allow him to pitch in Thursday’s game.

Was he disappointed that things didn’t work out with Toronto? Actually, he didn’t expect to be drafted that high while pitching at a prep school in Cambridge, Mass.

“I was shocked,” he said. “It was a great experience for me and my parents. It’s something I really worked toward, my whole life. It’s my dream to be in the Major Leagues. … If I didn’t feel I couldn’t do it, I would have said ‘Sorry, you wasted your pick.’ Instead I said ‘Hey, let’s get something done.’ But we just couldn’t agree on a contract.

“That’s just the business side of baseball. It’s nothing personal. I’m happy I’m at BC and hopefully I can (get drafted) in two years.”

Thursday’s highlights

There are also a couple of other interesting facets of Thursday’s season finale. First, the Silver Knights will autograph team photos that are being given out at the gates, which open early at 5:15. The session will run from 5:30 to 6 on the outfield warning track.

Also, Seacoast’s Kevin Stenhouse is shooting to hit .400 for the season, at .396 at last look. Stenhouse, who will be a senior at the University of Rhode Island this year, is the son of former Boston Red Sox, Minnesota Twin and Montreal Expo outfielder-first baseman Mike Stenhouse. Mike Stenhouse was with the Sox in 1986.

Finally, the franchise hopes to finish the regular season with an average of over 1,000, which is likely. It went into Wednesday averaging 1,131 fans a game.