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Silver Knights hope Christopulos strikes playoff gold

Telegraph photo by TOM KING Bentley's Evan Christopulos is eager to be the Nashua Silver Knights first round playoff starter tonight.

NASHUA – There was no question in the mind of Nashua Silver Knights manager B.J. Neverett who would start Monday’s 7 p.m. first round, one-game Futures Collegiate League playoff at Lynn’s Fraser Field vs. the North Shore Navigators for his 27-27 team that goes into the post season on a four-game winning streak.

Righthander Evan Christopulos has made a team high 10 starts, gone 4-4 with a 3.42 earned run average, and has given up fewer hits (45) than innings (50) with a superb 54 strikeouts to 14 walks.

Easy choice.

“His command has gone 10 times better this year,” Nashua pitching coach Kyle Jackson said.

“I’m pretty excited,” said Christopulos, whose post season experience after Andover High school included pitching in the Northeast-10 Conference tournament for Bentley University. “It’s all about putting the bats together and the defense will make the plays behind you.

“This past season I got a couple of innings at Bentley in the playoff game. … I love the pressure; love getting into my groove and competing against the other team.”

And keep a level head.

“The whole season you’re experimenting with your pitches,” Christopulos said. “I guess when it comes to that point, you’re trying to hold yourself back and not do too much. If you do, you get out of whack and have to take a breath.

“This whole (summer) season has been being able to command my pitches and slowly getting better.”

Christopulos is a thinker out on the mound, trying to win the battle of wits with the hitter.

“I try to think like the hitter so when I make a pitch, I can have them thinking more than I am,” he said.

And, he’s also a listener. Jackson taught him not to overreact to umpires’ calls and to be more composed “and have the right tempo at the right time. Some hitters like to step out of the box and disrupt your game. You make a bad pitch you just have to focus on the next pitch.”

“We kind of worked on his composure and staying within himself,” Jackson said. “Whereas at the start of the season he was over the top. So we calmed him down, he’s become more consistent and his off-speed has been there.”

Between Bentley and Nashua, Christopulos has eclipsed 100 total innings, but it’s been worth it. “I know it’s a lot of innings,” he said. “But I like being with the Silver Knights; they’ve got so much going on with the fans, and things.”

Jackson also taught Christopulos to throw a curve ball to complement his different style slider. “He’s helped me out a lot,” he said. “I think over my last couple of starts I’ve been able to command that a lot.”

“His slider has been his out pitch,” Jackson said. “He’s not walking anyone. He’s throwing it down in the zone, which is great for him to go back to school with.”

And he takes the results seriously, because the competition has been good.

“I think every at-bat has some educational purpose to it,” Christopulos said. “You learn from every pitch.

“But just in general, playing against this league, it gives me confidence to go back (to school) and keep doing what I’m doing, because I’ve seen myself grow so much this season, just from start to finish.”

He and his Silver Knights teammates hope that his start tonight won’t be the finish, period.

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Going into the playoffs, Neverett said “We know we can beat anybody, and we know we can be beaten by anybody.”

However, the Knights have struggled all season because of an ever-changing roster. They’ve gone through 52 players, 28 of them being pitchers.

“I looked out on the field the other night and there were just four guys who were here at the beginning of the year,” he said.

So the goal? Obviously win tonight and then get one more home game for the manager who is leaving the organization when things are done.

“That’s what we’re going to do, try to blow it out one game,” he said. “Then get back home again (for the semis), and whatever happens after that happens. That’s really our goal.”

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Kyle Sandstrom ended up leading the Silver Knights in hitting at .320 with a homer, 21 RBIs and an .847 OPS. Dylan Jones was the RBI leader with 38 and had a team-best .879 OPS, while Jared Dupere socked a team-high eight homers….

As for pitchers, while Christopulos had the most wins, four, Nashua native Spencer Bergeron led the team in earned run average for pichers with 10 or more appearances, going 2-2, 3.41. Jack Pawloski had a team high four saves…

Nashua hit .243 as a team while had a 4.98 team ERA….

The Navigators finished as the third seed, 30-25, and lost the chance at the No. 2 seed when they fell to Bristol, 10-2 on Sunday. Bristol finished at 31-23, tied with the best record with Brockton, but Brockton gets the top seed due to tiebreakers. Should Nashua upset North Shore, it would likely then face the Rox in the semis.