Neverett names starting pitchers for opening day, first home game

NASHUA – The 2016 Nashua Silver Knights reported as a team for the first time on Monday afternoon, but it didn’t take long for manager B.J. Neverett to name his opening night starting pitcher as well as his home opener starter.

It will be Stonehill College lefty Jeremy Roberts on the Leary Field hill in Portsmouth against Seacoast on Wednesday night for the Futures League season opener.

Once and current Silver Knight Mike Geannelis will get the nod for Friday night’s Holman Stadium opener against North Shore. Thursday night’s starter for the second game of the season at Brockton has yet to be determined, Neverett said.

"I think it’s a good opportunity," Roberts said. "It’s going to be a lot of fun. I wasn’t here last year, but I heard about it, and I this is a good opportunity for summer ball."

Roberts played with the Oneonta (N.Y.) Outlaws of the New York Collegiate League two years ago. But this spring at Stonehill, the 6-foot-2, 210-pound southpaw was pretty successful with a 4-3 record and 2.78 ERA in 12 appearances, 11 of them starts. He only allowed 68 hits in 71 1/3 innings, walking 22 while striking out 52.

The former Malden Catholic standout out of Reading, Mass., was a natural choice, according to Neverett.

"He had a lot of good numbers in his starts at Stonehill," Neverett said. "And at Seacoast, you want a lefty on the mound because it’s 190 feet down the line (at Leary)."

Roberts knew it was short, but not that short.

"Is it really? It’ll definitely be on my mind, but once the game starts, it’ll be like anything else."

Geannelis, meanwhile, is glad to be back and especially glad to receive the home opener. The UMass-Amherst junior was one of Nashua’s pitching mainstays, but last year pitched for the Keene Swampbats in the New England Collegiate Baseball League. He also made one emergency start for the Silver Knights, whose season lasted longer than the NECBL campaign.

"It’s exciting," Geannelis said. "I pitched in Keene last year but there’s nothing better than these fans (at Holman). I’m definitely ready for the season to start. It’s definitely going to be exciting. The environment is second to none."

At UMass this spring Geannelis was 0-2 but with four saves and a 1.84 ERA, and he will also see some time in the field.

"We’ll have a plan for him," Neverett said. "He’ll also be a good bat off the bench when he’s not pitching."

Starting setback

Geannelis’ signing, which didn’t happen until a few weeks ago, was big because the Silver Knights may be without one of the starters Neverett was going to rely on, UMass hurler Ryan Moloney of Londonderry. Moloney tossed a lot of innings in the last year between the Silver Knights and the Minutemen, and has at least temporarily shut things down.

"We’ll see," Neverett said. "He hasn’t closed the door. He definitely needs the rest. It’s a decision that has to be made in his best interests. … It’s a big loss (potentially), but we have other guys there who can do it."

Besides Moloney, another Londonderry pitcher who threw in relief for the Knights last summer, Rob Del Signore, is also on the shelf with a bad back.

Back in the bullpen

Former Silver Knight Lucas Olen of Bedford, who played the last two seasons but was a senior at Southern New Hampshire University this year, has returned to the team as bullpen coach.

Also back for his third season is pitching coach Kyle Jackson, the former Alvirne standout and Red Sox farmhand.

Jackson made some quiet news this spring when he resigned from his position as Nashua High School South junior varsity baseball coach a few days before tryouts began. He wanted to focus more on his insulation business, but it was clear he and Panthers head coach James Gaj were no longer on the same page.

"There were some differences, we just kind of drifted apart," Jackson said. "But this way I could focus on this (Silver Knights) and also my business. It worked out for the best."

Jackson is thrilled to be back with the Knights.

"I love it," he said. "It’s always exciting, a breath of fresh air. It’s great to see the mix of the younger guys and the experienced ones. The younger ones find out quick pitching here how focused the fans are and that makes them want to try even harder."

Plucking players

Over 100 players came to the Futures League tryouts at Holman Stadium last Thursday and the Silver Knights were able to pluck a few players from it, and good thing, too. They’ll be short in the catching department with Merrimack’s Mickey Gasper (Bryant) and Anthony Fava (St. John’s) tied up in postseason play.

Thus the Knights signed to temporary deals catchers Cam Ruziak out of Plymouth State and Collin Casey, who will be a freshman at Northeastern in the fall, but played prep school ball this spring.

One of those who didn’t report on Monday was shortstop Manny Cruz, but he’s hopefully expected in later this week. Cruz, who had great numbers at SNHU, should be drafted in the MLB amateur draft next week, so when he reports he may not be around long.

Infielder Chris Sullivan (Hartford) is expected to report Tuesday.

Alumni fun

Nashua’s Ricky Constant (Nashua North, UMass-Lowell) was to get the start and throw an inning in Monday night’s first annual Alumni Game, which the current Silver Knights won by a 5-4 margin.

"It was awesome to see everyone, we had a blast," said Gillis. "Just getting to get to know some of the guys who were after me was unbelievable. This year’s team looks pretty good. It’s always fun getting out here for the first game."