Silver Knights begin FCBL title defense tonight at Brockton

Staff photo by TOM KING With a record of 4-1 and an ERA of 1.30, Windham's Brandon Dufault gets the mound nod in Monday nights single elimination playoff game for the Nashua Silver Kngiths.

The Nashua Silver Knights, despite finishing the Futures Collegiate League regular season well below .500, do have something going for them as they begin their title threepeat chase tonight in a one-game first round playoff game at Brockton’s Campanelli Stadium.

Pitching.

“Our pitching has gotten, as it always does, better as the season goes on, Silver Knights manager B.J. Neverett said. “That’s why we (made) the playoffs, because of our pitching, not our hitting – or fielding.

“But now, it doesn’t really matter. You just line up and you go play.”

But Neverett feels his team’s mound starters give it a fighting chance. Nashua tonight will send Windham (and Northeastern) right Brandon Dufault to the hill. He finished 4-1, 1.30 with 40 strikeouts and 10 walks in 41 innings.

Should the Silver Knights advance, they would go to Luke Dawson (5-1, 3.77) to open up a semifinal series on the road, with relative newcomer Justin Cherry (1-0, 1.28) pitching a potential home semifinal game on Wednesday at Holman Stadium.

But that’s getting ahead of things. Nashua did sweep Brockton in a doubleheader last Sunday – a big reason why it made the playoffs – but overall are 4-6 vs. the fourth-seeded Rox, including 1-4 at Campanelli.

Nashua pitchers will have to be careful vs. Rox RBI machine and MIT junior Matt Johnston (43 ribbies). One would have to guess Brockton would send Bates junior righty Nolan Collins (5-0, 2.67) to the mound if he’s available.

“Brockton’s played well against us,” Silver Knights manager B.J. Neverett said. “We haven’t really played well there, but we’ve played well there in the past.”

But Neverett, thanks in part to the way the Silver Knights played down the stretch, feels a few things just need to fall into place for Nashua to be successful this week.

“We feel really well going into the tournament because we can start right out of the gate with Brandon and Luke,” he said. “At least we’re set up for that.

“But I’ll take my chances against anybody. We’ve got to score some runs.”

It’s clear the Silver Knights need better hitting in the clutch. Cody Morissette has 17 RBIs and appears to be the team’s best hitter in scoring situations. Jake Lebel is power personified(five homers, including a big one Saturday), but team may not pitch to him. Leadoff hitter Austin White (.344) leads the team with a .438 on base percentage, but has scored only 17 runs. As Neverett said, “It’s the inconsistency of the hitting. It hasn’t been the (lack of) hitting, it’s when we’re getting them.”

Neverett says good teams, like Worcester, will not throw hittable pitches when they get into jams.

“I try to tell the kids that, you know, but we’re up there swinging at bad pitches,” he said. “We’ve got young guys in the field, they’ve done the best they can at this point.”

But now the intensity is turned up a notch.

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Neverett thinks the FCBL should adapt a radical geographical rule change for the first round play-in games.

“I’d love to see it be a regional thing, when you play the team closest to you in the first round,” he said. “It doesn’t affect the first and second (seeded) teams. It’s so fans can get there. We’d have a heckuva lot more fans show up in Brockton than Bristol. And it would be good for Brockton, for selling tickets. It just makes the atmosphere better.”

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The Silver Knights were rained out Friday night in Pittsfield, but still basically made the trip. They got the call to turn around just after they got off the Mass. Pike…

Nashua’s first potential home playoff game, should it survive tonight, would be a semifinal Game 2 on Wednesday, likely at 7:05 p.m. against either No. 1 Marha’s Vineyard or No. 2 Worcester…

In case you were wondering, the semis will pit No. 1 Martha’s Vineyard agains the lowest remaining seed after round 1, and Worcester vs. the other survivor, in a home/away 1-1-1, best two-out-of-three format. The rotating home-away is a change from the old 1-2 format in which the lower seed used to host semis or finals Game 1.