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Silver Knights are hoping to heat up in July

Telegraph photo by TOM KING Ben Cowles has been stellar at short for the Nashua Silver Knights, but unfortunately is headed back to the University of Maryland in the next few days.

NASHUA – It’s July, the weather heats up, and the Nashua Silver Knights are hoping to do the same thing.

What do they need to do?

Score runs. Drive in runners in scoring position.

“I looked at the league stats and we lead the league in batters left on base,” Neverett said, “and that’s been our curse.”

The Silver Knights left 11 men on in a loss late last week at Pittsfield.

“It seems like we’re snakebit,” Neverett said. “We don’t make contact with guys in scoring position, we just seem to strike out. Many times we just have to hit the ball, and score runs. We have plenty of time to think about it, work at it, get better at it, that’s all.”

How did Neverett rate the month of June?

“Good, he said. “This is a talented team. If you look at the league standings, it’s crazy. … We easily could be in first place with any luck in some of the games we’ve had.

“I still think there’s enough here to make a run. The league is completely up in the air.”

The goal for Neverett and the Knights is to get a home game.

“I’d like to get a home game that first round,” he said. “If we end up third or fourth that’s fine, but I’d like to get a home game.”

And he’d like to be better at home than the 6-6 mark the Silver Knights will take into today’s doubleheader beginning at 3 p.m. vs. Worcester (nine innings first game, picked up in top of first from June 2 rainout, seven innings second game). Plus, they’ve been hit with a four-game losing streak going into Tuesday night’s game at Brockton.

But to do that, the Knights need to drive in runs and can’t suffer setbacks the way they did at Westfield this past Saturday, losing both ends of a doubleheader, 2-0 and 9-1.

“We have to hit better with men on base,” Neverett said. “We’d gone in June, only two weeks ago batting .199 as a team, to .242 now. That’s been good. Our earned run average has been dropping slowly. So we’re definitely getting better. We field well, as a team, we’ve been good defensively, third in the league in fielding, fourth in the league in offense and we’re almost third.

“It’s just a matter of getting it done. Hitting with men on base.”

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What happens at third base for the Silver Knights? They’ve had a few players at that position, and thought they had found a permanent solution when they signed Ryan Daues. But after a few lackluster games he informed Neverett he wanted to take the summer off and left the team last week.

They’ve used Noah Lucier there, had the versatile Luis Atiles start the season, and also have played Joe Bramanti there lately.

“We have Joe Bramanti and he played third last year for us,” Neverett said. “There’s been some talk he may play third (at UMaine).”

They also signed Liam Sullivan, a second baseman from Holy Cross who missed this past season due to labrum surgery. He’s a possibility.

“We’re going to ease him in a bit,” Neverett said. “We’ll solve (third) from within, I think. Between Attiles, we can put Luis over there. And we can play Bramanti there, definitely.”

Neverett was disappointed to see Daues leave.

“I don’t know, it was just weird,” he said. “We’ll solve the position from within. We like the guys we have.”

If Bramanti can hold his own defensively, he may be the solution as Neverett likes a power bat playing third. The addition of the hulking Mike La Rocca playing first would theoretically free Bramanti up for that spot.

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What adds to the necessity of stabilizing the infield at third is the fact the Knights are losing shortstop Ben Cowles and Dan O’Connor, as both have to return to the University of Maryland early for academic purposes. Neverett knew about Cowles but didn’t find out about O’Connor until he arrived last month.

“He’s a business a major, and he wants to take a really hard math class by itself,” Neverett said. “They’re going back for second semester summer. It’s a real good reason.”

Cowles is hitting .232, but over the last week hit .375 with two homers, four doubles and five RBIs. Overall he has eight doubles and 13 RBIs at last look and has been playing well at short defensively. O’Connor is still searching for his first Silver Knights win, going 0-3 with a 4.24 earned run average, but has had some bad luck in terms of support. For example, in his last start, he lost a 2-0 game to Westfield.

Who takes O’Connor’s spot? Dover’s Griffin Young (Wheaton) or Jimmy Fahey (Trinity College) could take the spot, but Neverett said the team may bring in one or two more arms.

“We still have some irons in the fire as far as pitching goes,” he said. “We have some options.”

But losing Cowles hurts. He became the first Silver Knight ever to hit for the cycle in a win at Westfield a week ago.

“He hit a home run, then he had a double, then he hit a ball to center field for a triple,” Neverett said. “Then he got to third and slid, as soon as he got up, he said, ‘I’ve onl got a single left.'”

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Westfield has had a bad start to the season before its sweep of the Knights this past Saturday, and while the team has drawn fairly well (announced 1,728 Saturday night, an average of 991 a game), its home park, Bullens Field, isn’t held in that high regard.

“It’s Torrington with a bad infield,” Neverett said. “I know they got in late, but they need to completely gut the infield and put in a brand new infield.

“The grass has clumps and I was sitting near the third base line, a kid on their team hit a ball toward third, it hit a clump of grass and went that way (pointing right) to shortstop.”

Ouch. Westfield came in late – during the winter – so it’s likely the league knows that work needs to be done there.

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Today the team will honor local service members and first responders throughout the twinbill. Also present will be the charity the Holiday Card Challenge, which works year-round to collect holiday cards for U.S.military personnel overseas…

One ticket is good for both games today, according to the team….

The Kinghts will be at Worcester on July 4 for a 1 p.m. game, visit Pittsfield Friday night and are back at Holman to face Brockton on Saturday (6:05 p.m.).