Silver Knights open FCBL postseason at North Shore
NASHUA – Optimism reigns supreme with the Nashua Silver Knights, who enter the Futures Collegiate League playoffs as the fifth seed with a 28-28 regular season mark.
It all starts on Tuesday night as the Knights travel to familiar Fraser Field in Lynn, Mass., to take on the fourth-seeded North Shore Navigators (33-22) at 7 p.m. in a single-elimination quarterfinal game.
"I think we can win it all, without question," said Silver Knights DH/catcher Erik Ostberg, the team’s leading hitter during the regular season. "If we pitch, we can beat anyone. Honestly, one baseball game anybody can beat anybody. We’ve beaten the Navigators, we’ve beaten the Sharks, we’ve beat Brockton.
"We’ve got the new guy (Mike) Geannelis, we’ve got (Tom) Hudon, we’ve got (Ryan) Moloney. I think we can easily make a run."
Hudon is likely to get the start in Tuesday’s game, manager Ted Currle said, if for no other reason than he hasn’t pitched against the Navigators while in a Silver Knights uniform this year.
"And we haven’t thrown a lefty against them, either," Currle said. "It’d be good to change it up."
Just over a month ago, Hudon (2-1, 3.48) thought his summer was over after he left the Seacoast Mavericks. Pitch in a playoff game?
"I couldn’t have imagined that," Hudon said. "I think when our offense is on it’s scary. If we get some good hitting, we can really make some noise."
Nashua hit .257 as a team during the regular season, while the Navs hit .251. But the Silver Knights went 2-6 in eight games with the Navs, hitting just .218 against them while NS hit .273. Nashua’s earned run average against the Navigators: 4.75.
One of the other reasons Hudon is starting is Moloney has struggled against North Shore to the tune of an 0-3, 6.32 mark.
Hudon will watch out for the bats of Chad Martin (.310, 35 RBIs) and Brandon Fischer (.338, 36 RBIs). This isn’t a power team; the Navs hit just 20 homers for the season. Nashua, led by Ryan Sullivan’s nine, was slightly more powerful with 25.
If Nashua does anything in this matchup, it will likely come from the bats of Ostberg, Matt O’Herron and Tyler Noe, who, by the way, played all nine positions in the regular-season finale at Seacoast. Ostberg and O’Herron hit .308 agains the Navs, Noe .304.
Who could those bats face on Tuesday night? Possibly UMass-Lowell righty Steve Xirinachs, who won a league best seven games (7-1, 2.55). Or maybe the Navs will use Cole O’Connor, (5-2, 3.06, tied for second in the league in wins). O’Connor also comes out of the pen. Four others in the Navs starting rotation have sub-3.00 ERAs, and it’s obvious pitching is the name of North Shore’s game. While Nashua was next to last in the league in pitching at 4.17, the Navs were second behind Bristol at 3.14.
"North Shore, they pitch very well, they throw strikes, they’re consistent," Currle said. "They take advantage of every mistake you make. They have good team speed. And they’re solid on defense. We haven’t had much success against them."
Call the Silver Knights optimistic, but they know they go into the playoffs as an underdog.
"If we play the baseball we’re capable of playing, we can do a lot," Nashua shortstop Manny Cruz said. "We’ve had our ups and downs. But if we play the baseball we’ve been playing, we can make noise.
"They’re (the Navs) competitive, but we’re just as good."
"We’re right there with everyone," Currle said. "But just about every way you figure it, we’re .500. But it would be nice to see us win two games and get a home (playoff) game."
The other matchups will have No. 1 Martha’s Vineyard (34-20) hosting No. 8 Pittsfield (25-30); No. 7 Torrington (24-28) at No. 2 Bristol (West Division champ, 33-23), and No. 3 Brockton (34-22) hosting No. 6 defending champ Worcester (26-30).
The highest remaining seed plays the lowest remaining seed in one semi and the middle seeds are in the other on Wednesday.
The best-of-three finals are said to be set for Thursday, likely at the home of the lower seed. The higher seed will have the option of playing Game 1 at home or Games 2 and 3 at home. Most choose the former.
It’s no surprise to Currle that the Sharks are the No. 1 seed.
"We’ve (the coaching staff) talked about it and in our opinion they’re the best team in the league," he said.