Neverett being patient in building Silver Knights roster

Telegraph file photo by TOM KING Nashua's Spencer Bergeron, a reliever at UMass-Amherst, is set to return to the Nashua Silver Knights this summer.

NASHUA – Good things come to those who wait.

That’s the philosophy Nashua Silver Knights vice president of player personnel/field manager B.J. Neverett took this off-season, and he’s hoping it pays off.

“I’ve taken my time this year,” he said in procuring a roster for the upcoming 2019 season after last year’s 21-33 disappointment. “I’ve been working on it slowly, doing research on the kids.”

The slower approach did have a price, though, as a couple of players from Exeter who are at Maine and Holy Cross that Neverett waited on were scooped up by North Shore. But you live and learn.

“I made the comment to those two schools that if they are from New Hampshire, I want first crack at them,” Neverett said. “I’m the only team in New Hampshire. I’m kind of letting some of the schools know.

“But I’m hoping (the slow approach) is going to work out better as I spend more time researching and looking at kids. The guys I trust (college coaches) I tell them to call me when they’re ready.”

The other reason to wait, Neverett said, is those coaches he knows would call now or in mid-season to place players and his roster, and he’d have to turn them away. Now he has openings with just 12 position players.

“What’s going to happen is that as the spring goes on, somebody’s going to be available, and I’ll have a spot for him,” he said, “where last year I didn’t.”

The other thing Neverett likes about the current roster of 16 pitches and 12 position players that he’s put together is that most are on the field right now for their respective college teams, not sitting on the bench or rehabbing an injury.

“I like that they’re playing,” Neverett said. “They will come here ready to play.”

And that has been an issue in the past. It’s what made the recent high school graduates so enticing – the limit is five – because they are coming right off one diamond on to another.

The roster this season has just five players back from a team that barely made the playoffs as a fifth place team and no one – not a single player – back from the title team of 2017.

Not that there should be, as once you’re a college senior, you’re ineligible. But a few of those who did well here have simply moved on to a higher level league per order of their college coaches.

“It’s not that they don’t want to come back here, it’s that they’re moving on,” Neverett said. “Personally I think the NECBL is a lateral move, but their coaches still want to send them there. We’ve got kids going to the Cape (Cod League) this year. We’ve had a lot of kids that have gone to the Cape, which is good. That’s what we look for.”

As usual, it’s a mix of Division I, II and III schools, and the interesting Division ingredients are four players from the University of Maryland. The connection? Neverett in the past has gotten players from St. John’s when Corey Muscara was an assistant there. Muscara is now at – you guessed it – Maryland, mainly dealing with the pitchers.

Here’s a look at the current roster, which will see some possible additions and tweaks between now and Opening Night:

PITCHERS

There are three back from a year ago,and of the trio, two are local and will relieve – Amherst’s Joe Grassett (University of Hartford) and Nashua’s Spencer Bergeron (Umass-Amherst). Jarod Norcross-Plourde (Lewiston, Me.) is also at Hartford.

Here’s the breakdown:

Starters – To make Neverett’s point about players playing, Saint Anselm freshman righty David Hunter has been a workhorse so far for the Hawks, with seven appearances, one start, a 2-3, 2.41 ERA with 18 innings. Trinity College junior Alex Shafer (out of Baltimore) has a career 8-4 mark; John Parker of Eastern Connecticut is 0-2, 3.97 in two starts; Norcross-Plourde has made six appearances at Hartford in relief (0-1) but Neverett likely will use him as a starter after 10 relief appearances for the Knights last summer.

Parker, Neverett said, “is older, he’s started (at Eastern Conn.) and he’s a hard thrower.” And Hunter was supposedly St. A’s top freshman recruit.

But there’s more. “I’m looking to add four more pitchers,” he said.

Relievers – Nashua North alum Spencer Bergeron heads the list. Remember, he’s recovered from arm surgery and hit a wall in his first year back last summer, so he’ll likely do for the Knights in his return what he’s doing now at UMass – relieve, as he’s made four relief appearences already with mixed results. “I think we’ll leave him that way (in relief),” Neverett said. “But I’m sure he’s stronger today.” Another UMass hurler, freshman lefty Jack Pawlaski, is awaiting his first appearance.

Concord’s Griffin Gilbert, a freshman righty at Farleigh Dickinson, has a start and a relief appearance and a 4.50 ERA. “He’ll come with some experience,” Neverett said. Sophomore Tyler Armstrong who is 6-foot-6, has three relief appearanes with Stevens Institute of Technology out of Hoboken, N.J. He still has a shot at starting in Nashua. Bedford righty Pat Harrington, a freshman at Assumption, has made four appearances and is 1-0, 1.29.

Others: Another St. A’s arm, Goffstown freshman Taylor French (five relief appearances, 0-1); two Maryland hurlers, sophomore righty Daniel O’Connor out of Baltimore is 1-0 in seven appearances (but he could also start in Nashua) while lefty sophomore Grant Burleson out of Salisbury, Mass.has yet to pitch; Grassett has made one relief appearance at Hartford. Billerica (Mass.) freshman Brady McGarry is one of Division II St. Leo University’s first relievers out of the pen with six appearances (1-0). He could start or relieve here.

Two other relievers are Northeastern-bound high schoolers/prep school players. Righty Cam Schlittler is at Walpole (Mass.) High while lefty James Quinlan out of Medway, Mass.is at Milton Academy. “These are two pretty good prospects,” Neverett said. “Their coach (Glavine) feels they belong in this league. They’re both tall, 6-4, 6-5. I’m not sure yet what we’ll do with them.”

CATCHERS (3)

Can never have enough, right? The lone returnee here is Franklin Pierce junior Dylan Jones, who hit just .183 last summer in 30 games, and is at .186 in 11 with the Ravens thus far, but is valuable. Why? “He’s just really, really good defensively,” Neverett said. “We’re not worried about his bat. All the pitchers love throwing to him. You get a guy like that, you’ve got to bring him back.”

Max Silverman, a sophomore catcher out of Westford, Mass., at St.A’s, has played in seven games with a .286 average, homer and four RBIs. He played last summer in the New York State League.

Is the name Jack Arend familiar to you, Knights fans? That’s because he played for Brockton last year, and was often a thorn in the Silver Knights’ side and tagged out Luke Tyree in the key out in the ninth inning of the playoff loss to the Rox. Brockton didn’t take him back, Neverett scooped him up the junior at Bates and right now he’s hitting. 500 in eight games. He hit .268 for Brockton last summer in 29 games.

INFIELDERS (6)

Neverett feels he has his middle infield set from the Terrapins. Shortstop Ben Cowles has started 17 of 18 games for Maryland as a freshman, while his double play combo partner, sophomore Tommy Gardner, has started a dozen, hitting .217.

“They’re (coming) here because (Maryland) wants them to play together,” Neverett said. “I’ve seen them on TV, they’re very good. They’ll have plenty of experience.”

Northeastern freshman Jared Duprere of Amesbury, Mass. Can play third, second or even in the outfield; he’s started 16 games, hitting .210 right now. Josh Brodeur, a sophomore infidleder (second-third) at the University of Rhode Island is hitting .242 in 10 games. He may play more third for the Knights and could start.

Keep an eye on potential 6-5 first baseman Alex Lane, the fourth high schooler who is Bryant University bound – unless he gets drafted, which is possible. He’s at St. John’s Prep.

The lone infield holdover from last summer is first baseman Joe Bramanti out of the University of Maine. Bramanti hit. 250 in 11 games with the Knights; this early spring he’s hitting .213 with a homer and seven RBIs in 18 games at Maine. Neverett feels he can be the everyday first baseman.

“They’re all starting for their schools,” Neverett said. “Last year we had three starting high school infielders, and that wasn’t good. They were good players, but they lacked the college experience, and it took them awhile.”

Meanwhile, there could be a sixth returnee, Ryan Berardino, the grandson of former heralded Red Sox outfielder Dwight Evans and coach/minor league manager Dick Berardino who is playing t Bentley. Berardino will start the summer on a Cape Cod League temp contract; if he gets cut his contract will revert back to Nashua where will likely DH. He hit .289 and drove in 17 here last summer.

OUTFIELDERS (3)

Neverett can move some pieces around and also add to this; right now there are just three – one a soon-to-be high school grad, Boston College-bound Barry Walsh out of Wachussett Regional. Nationally ranked Babson’s Jake Oliger, a 6-4 junior, is hitting .393 with a homer and 10 RBIs in all eight games for the Beavers.

Another, URI freshman Billy Butler, has played in just three games thus far.

“There’s probably going to be a fourth guy down the road,” Neverett said. “Still hemming and hawwing about that.”

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The thing you can’t control, Neverett said, are injuries.

“The injuries hurt,” he said. “What happens in our league, you lose a kid, and the kid you use to replace him is not going to be at the same level.”

But, with almost a completely new team, he’s hoping for a higher level for the Silver Knights this summer, compared to 2018.