Neverett hopes to guide Silver Knights to FCBL title repeat
A week or so ago, Nashua Silver Knights manager B.J. Neverett paced in the dugout, fighting the urge to have a meeting on the pitchers mound to set his infield defense to protect a one-run lead.
“I hadn’t done it all year,” he said. “My gut was telling me to go out there, but I was saying ‘No, these guys have been fine all year.’ But then a pitch was thrown that shouldn’t have been, and the game got tied and we eventually lost. I was kicking myself, saying that’s not going to happen next time.”
Neverett, over his long coaching career that included an 18-year stint as the varsity baseball coach at Nashua High School/Nashua High School South, has always been a sharp X’s-and-O’s type, not afraid to take a risk or two. He hasn’t had to do much of that in his first season as manager of the Silver Knights.
But he has had to manipulate a deeper roster than he’s ever had in high school, and the result was a dominant regular season team that takes a top-seeded record into Game 1 of the FCBL semifinals at Brockton’s Campanelli Stadium on Friday at 7:05 p.m.
Neverett, who got his feet wet in the summer college game as the Silver Knights bench coach last year, earned himself the honors of FCBL Manager of the Year, but he’s looking for a second straight championship for the young franchise.
“There’s a lot of work to be done still,” said Neverett, who tabbed Salem/Boston College lefty Nick Poore (6-1, 1.28) to begin the team’s title defense on the mound. “Is it a successful season if we don’t finish it the right way, with a title? Probably not. We’ve never been in this situation, this year you have to be more than one team to move on.”
Neverett had never been in this situation before, either. As a high school coach, in the tournaments you’d play one team one game; now he’s got to manage a series. He’d also never managed a deep roster with 15 pitchers and almost as many position players.
“What made it a little easier was there were a lot of guys that were coming back from last year, we knew what we had,” Neverett said. “There were different times this year when I had to listen to some of the older guys. They wanted it done a certain way, which made sense.”
One of that was having certain players in the starting lineup and knowing who was comfortable coming off
Neverett is happy about how just about everyone has had a role, where last year with a shorter schedule it was tough to get a lot of players involved. But with the FCBL jumping from four to nine teams,the manager’s job for the returning four clubs certainly changed.
“It’s nothing like the high school season,” Neverett said. “It’s very compressed, you’re playing every day. It’s a grind. And there are a lot of things that go on during the course of a season. You’re trying to keep college guys motivated playing during the summer.”
And, once they got out to a quick first place lead after struggling the first week, in playoff mode.
“B.J.’s been very good about keeping our mindset right, always coming out and playing hard,” Knights starting pitcher/sometime first baseman Lamarre Rey said. “And always playing as if it’s a playoff game. With a nine-team league, you’re going to play a lot of teams we’re going to play in the playoffs many times. So it’s good we’ve gotten that experience playing intense baseball. B.J.’s been using close game situations to hit and run us at the right time, steal us at the right time, bunt us at the right time.”
Neverett and the Silver Knights just hope that, like last year, it’s their time.
What is the key for Nashua in this short series?
Get ahead of the Rox early. The Silver Knights don’t want to have to deal with Rox pitcher John Sheehan, who is 6-1 but has been the team’s closer with three saves and a 1.41 earned run average. The tough hitters Poore will face are outfielder Sean Ryan (.356, 19 stolen bases, but .500 vs. Nashua.) and power-hitting catcher Greg Baggett (.306, seven homers, 35 RBIs). Brockton hit .218 vs. Nashua pitching, conversely Nashua hit .246 versus the Rox.
“We’ve had tough games with them,” Neverett said. “We’re still going to have to play well and we’re going to have to score runs. We’ve handled their pitching OK, but they’ve got a real good back end when Sheehan comes in and closes, he’s tough. And Ryan, we haven’t gotten him out I don’t think. But I like our lineup, I think we’ll be fine.”