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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Connecticut’s Sam Nepiarsky is in command for Silver Knights

When Sam
Nepiarsky takes the mound for the Nashua Silver Knights, his mind convinces him he’s in another world.

It takes him back in time to
his wiffle ball days with his neighbors. ...

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When Sam
Nepiarsky takes the mound for the Nashua Silver Knights, his mind convinces him he’s in another world.

It takes him back in time to
his wiffle ball days with his neighbors.

“You always try to stay calm,” he said. “At the end of the day, it is a game. You just have to play it like a backyard game of wiffle ball. That’ how I think of it.”

The 6-foot-3, 195-pound Nepiarsky, who grew up in Orange, Conn., played at Amity High School and was redshirted at the University of Connecticut as a freshman this past year. He played last fall, but didn’t compete in the spring and the Huskies sent him to the Knights to get a head start on his
sophomore year.

“I’ve really been just getting back into it,” he said, “and trying to pick up from where I left off in high school. Trying to get consistent with pitches, really working on stuff every day, doing the same things over and over.”

It’s worked. He is 5-1 with a 3.00 ERA for the Knights, for whom he’s displayed pinpoint control – just eight walks in 51 innings pitched.

What has made him so successful on the mound? That’s easy, say those who watch him pitch. With Nepiarsky, strike one comes right away.

“Fastball command,” Silver Knights manager Ted Currle said. “He throws, I think, 87 percent of the hitters he faces he’s ahead of. He throws first pitch strikes and then does what he wants.”

Nepiarsky’s fastball has topped out at about 90-91, and he mixes in the changeup and slider. But has he always been such a first-pitch strike machine?

“I had been good with accuracy, but not this good until I started working on it this year,” Nepiarsky said. “I was never really overpowering, but I’ve had good control in the past. Not really up at school, but that’s probably why I was redshirted. I guess (being redshirted) was good in the long run, at least that’s what their plan is. My arm was fresh for the (Knights) season, so I haven’t had any wear and tear, any unusual soreness because I haven’t pitched long term in a while.”

He’s long term now, because the Silver Knights need him for a possible title run.

“I’m surprised I’ve been having a lot of success,” he said. “I knew I could do it, being given an opportunity. Counts are very important to me. The same pitch 0-1 is probably a strike taken, swung at or rolled over probably more than 2-0. Just locating it. Sometimes the velocity is there, but just locating it.

“You can basically live off that. Sometimes you need off-speed if a team is getting on your fastball. That’s first and foremost in every single game.”

Now, with his control comes some other details. Since he’s around the plate, he will give up hits (51 on the year) but he does have 44 stirkeouts. The long ball may also happen; two Seacoast homers were the keys in his first loss of the season last Saturday.

But one thing’s for sure, Nepiarsky doesn’t get rattled too often.

“He’s a laid back relaxed kid, not too up, not too down,” Currle said. “He stays on an even keel. He’s been good, hope he continues it.”

Nepiarsky was thrilled to be an FCBL All-Star.

“It was one of my goals coming in, and I’m glad it happened,” he said.

Nepiarsky feels he can sustain this for the next few weeks, adding he’d like to continue his baseball career beyond college if possible.

“If I work my butt off, I have a chance at it,” he said. “Of course it’s something I want to do down the road. If it works out, that’d be great; if it doesn’t, just work on a backup plan.”

The Silver Knights would rather go with Plan A, or make that Plan N – as in Nepiarsky. He gives them an edge, whether it’s baseball, or wiffle ball.