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Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Nashua Silver Knights out to reclaim FCBL crown

NASHUA – Ted Currle was asked the other day what type of team he prefers.

“One that wins,” he said without hesitation. ...

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NASHUA – Ted Currle was asked the other day what type of team he prefers.

“One that wins,” he said without hesitation.

And thus, the Ted Currle Era of the Nashua Silver Knights begins as the team opens its fourth season on Wednesday night at Old Orchard Beach Raging Tide, managed by former Nashua Pride infielder Chris Torres.

For once, the Silver Knights won’t be taking the field as defending Future Collegiate League champions. They lost in the FCBL finals last year to Martha’s Vineyard and are now on a quest to make amends.

Why didn’t Nashua win it last year? Basically, it lacked pop in the lineup. The team hit .249 with just 15 homers, and opposing pitchers knew if they could get through the first few hitters in the lineup, they were home free.

“I think we’ll hit a lot better than we did last year,” vice president of player personnel B.J. Neverett said. “I don’t know about power, but we do have a lot of size. This is a big team.”

PITCHING

Cole Warren, a reliever throughout his Silver Knight two-year career, will now be a starter. So confident in his new role, which he enjoyed at Southern New Hampshire University this spring (3-3, 1.69) that the Silver Knights named him the Opening Night starter.

“They’d (the Penmen) like him to start,” Neverett said. “That’s where he’s at right now.”

The other three returnees to the staff - Tom Hudon (St. Anselm, 3-5, 5.02 this spring; 4-1, 1.49 last summer), Jake Mellin (University of Hartford) and Matt Tulley (Virginia Tech) are all in the mix from which the Silver Knighs will get their five- or six-man rotation. Mellin and Hudon were two of the team’s top starters last summer.

Newcomer Tom Viehoff will start on Thursday at Martha’s Vineyard, while Hudon goes in the Holman opener on Friday night. Others: Righty Geannelis (Umass-Amherst) is another possibility.

At the back end, who will replace the league’s best closer, Cody Rocha? The team has high hopes for 6-foot-2 righty Trevor Holmes (UConn).

Brandon Walsh, who will also catch, was the closer at UMass Amherst (2-4, two saves, 3.02). There is also Shawn Heide (St. John’s).

Long men in the pen include recent Trinity grad Carmen Giampetruzzi, as well as Stonehill righty John Hauck and SNHU’s Lucas Olen. Righty Sam Nepiarsky (UConn) could also have various pitching roles.

“Obviously in leagues like this, you want good starting pitching and a solid back of the bullpen,” Currle said. “The offense usually comes around; a lot of these kids haven’t hit with wood in a while. I’ve watched Nashua compete for the title every year and they’ve always had exceptional staring pitching.”

CATCHERS

The Silver Knights have liked a lefty-righty platoon, and this year is no exception.

But they added Dartmouth College starting catcher Matt MacDowell to the mix, signing him off a league tryout late last week. MacDowell hit .233 in 30 games for the Green.

Merrimack College’s Pat Florence is more of a defensive asset than offensive (.148 this spring). And Walsh, the righty bat in the platoon, hit .274 with a homer and 16 RBIs this spring.

“In my opinion, it’s the deepest catching staff we’ve had in four years,” Neverett said.

INFIELDERS

Will the corners offer power this summer? The Silver Knights have options at both corners.

Endicott’s Harry Oringer and former Hollis resident Joe Napolitano, who plays at Wake Forest, will give it a go at third.

Umass-Lowell tandem Jimmy Ricoy and Matt Mottola.Ricoy, who got hot last year after his hand healed, had a down spring (.225, one homer). Mottola, meanwhile, hit .311 with three homers and 13 RBIs for the River Hawks.

Who plays short? Last year, remember, the team handed the job to high school grad Johnny Adams and he never let go.

This year they want to give it to another recent high school player, Oklahoma’s Quin Whalberg.

“He’s got a good bat, and everyone I’ve talked to said he’s got a great glove, can pick it,” Neverett said. “He’s a great player in Oklahoma, we’ll see how that translates out here.”

His double play partner at second could be Appalachian State’s Michael Pierson. Pierson had a fantastic spring – .343, seven homers, 33 RBIs in 54 games. Keep an a eye on him. URI’s R.J. Warnock provides depth at both middle infield spots. He can also pitch.

OUTFIELDERS

Oh, the Lyons brothers will be missed, as Sean and Connor had exceptional speed, seen either in left or center.

Two players are penciled in for center on their college teams this year, Connecticut high schooler Scott Braren (Boston College-bound) and Griffin Garabedian (UConn).

SNHU’s Carson Helms is coming off a spring where he had a broken hand. “This guy’s got tools,” Neverett said. “I’m really anxious to see him play.”

Matt Sanchez, who hit .289 for the Knights last year, is back. He played third for Umass Lowell but was so reliable in left field last summer the Silver Knights will want to keep him there if possible.

And there’s Merrimack College’s Cam DiScarcina. DiSarcina, the nephew of current Angels third base coach and former Lowell Spinners manager Gary DiSarcina. Cam DiScarcina hit a robust .299 with 34 RBIs in 37 games at Merrimack College this spring.

FCBL REALIGNMENT

A reminder, the league, with the addition of the Worcester Bravehearts as a 10th team, will have a new format this season, splitting into two divisions.

Nashua is the West Division, with Torrington, Wachusett, Pittsfield and Worcester. Brockton, North Shore, Martha’s Vineyard, Old Orchard and Seacoast are in the East.