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Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Nashua Silver Knights wasted too many scoring chances

NASHUA – The mystery remains. Exactly why are the Nashua Silver Knights not still competing for the 2014 Futures Collegiate League championship?

“At the end of the regular season we were second in hitting and second in pitching,” Silver Knights manager Ted Currle said. “I don’t know if it was bad luck. I don’t think we were any better or worse than any of these teams. I thought it was really, really even.” ...

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NASHUA – The mystery remains. Exactly why are the Nashua Silver Knights not still competing for the 2014 Futures Collegiate League championship?

“At the end of the regular season we were second in hitting and second in pitching,” Silver Knights manager Ted Currle said. “I don’t know if it was bad luck. I don’t think we were any better or worse than any of these teams. I thought it was really, really even.”

Except for one telling statistic: The Silver Knights led the FCBL in runners left on base. In the end, that was huge. Saturday night’s 9-8 playoff ouster in Torrington was a perfect example as Nashua left five on in the ninth, 10th and 11th alone. The days of Jon Minucci, Chris Shaw and James Katsiroubas are gone.

“We couldn’t get a clutch hit when we needed it and we led the league with men left on base (442),” coach and VP of Player Personnel B.J. Neverett said.

Torrington, on the other hand, had Langston Calhoun and R.J. Going doing damage in the middle of the order, and they were tough on the Silver Knights, for certain. And that’s not even including Michael Odenwaelder, who drove in 49 runs for the Titans but left early to play in a tournament in Japan.

Nashua didn’t have any hitters do the damage to Torrington that Calhoun did to them, although Ricoy and Carson Helms (combined 57 RBIs) were tough.

Silver Knights coach/VP of Player Personnel B.J. Neverett will, after some time away, go back to work at the end of August in
reshaping the roster. Players such as closer Travis Landry, shortstop Mike Pierson, first baseman Jimmy Ricoy, infielder Harry Oringer, left fielder Matt Sanchez and starting pitcher Shawn Heide are automatically ineligible next summer as they will have graduated from their schools.

“This is an older group,” Neverett said. “As far as the guys we have here that we would bring back, it has a lot to do with what their college coaches plans are for them too.”

Neverett says the FCBL still hasn’t gotten over what he calls the “NECBL hurdle,” with many college coaches feeling the New England Collegiate Baseball League is better.

“We’re getting closer,” Neverett said, citing third baseman Ryan Sullivan as an example of a player who was with Nashua last year, but his University of Connecticut coaches wanted him to play in the NECBL. He sat the bench in Laconia, and finally Neverett was able to convince UConn to send him to the Silver Knights. But an ankle injury shelved him after nine games.

“He’s a guy we’d bring back immediately if we can,” Neverett said.

It’s hard to pinpoint what type of players Neverett will go after. The clutch hitting, or lack of it, was a concern.

“I don’t know if you go recruit guys that can do that,” Neverett said. “Or just try to find the best player you can and go from there.”

Remember, Nashua overhauled its roster from a year ago, and perhaps all the new faces led to a slow start.

“It took us about a month,” said Sanchez, who had a great summer leading off at a .316 clip. “Then we became a family. We all had fight. Everyone. I think the league is just going to get better and better.”

It already has. Nashua and Neverett now have nine teams to battle out in the recruiting trail as well as on the field.

“The league this year was tough,” Neverett said. “Everybody had good players. It was a really, really good league. I felt we competed really well. But the adversity we had before it even started, the guys that we lost, the top end players, and the fact we picked up a couple of guys along the way. We really hung in there.

“We hit into a lot of double plays, and I don’t think we played defensively as well as we could, as well as we’d have to, to be one of the top teams.”

Currle’s first season wasn’t close to the success on the field of his three predecessors, but he’d like to return and be the first Silver Knights manager to do so. His calm, friendly approach fits the summer college baseball mentality, but it also, in his mind, may have led to the club’s obvious mistake-prone play during the course of the season.

“Some of that may be my fault,” he said, “for creating a relatively laid back atmosphere that sometimes maybe the mental side of the game might leave them. That’s just how I operate. It can go either way. If you’re too strict, or too intense, or whatever,maybe sometimes they get too tight in certain situations.

“Every night was different. I think the whole year has made me a better coach. And I hope it made these kids better players.”

Who could return? As Neverett said, a lot depends on the colleges, and that mainly would be the Division I schools. For example, let’s see what UConn does with a pitcher like the Silver Knights ace, Sam Nepiarsky (5-1, 2.80 regular season), who red-shirted.

“Working for the Knights was a lot of fun,” Currle said. “They treat you right as a manager, they treat the players right, they treat the interns right, everybody. It was a lot of fun, and B.J. put together a great roster. Obviously we wanted to do better. But we walked away with more wins (28) than losses 27) and the kids had a positive experience. That’s the number one thing with college summer leagues. You want to win, yes; but you want the kids to get better and have a positive experience.”

It looked like it would be extremely positive some 10 days ago. Nashua was a half-game behind Worcester, but then went from Aug. 2-9 losing six of eight, including Saturday’s playoff loss.

“Obviously I’m upset we didn’t win,” said Currle, who now returns to his life as Norton (Mass.) High School athletic director and baseball coach. “But looking back in two or three weeks you’re going to say ‘That was one hell of a baseball game.’ That’s what summer baseball is all about, kids laying it on the line and they were playing for each other.”

But just didn’t play long enough. The rest of the FCBL has, indeed, caught up to Nashua.