When Anthony Lupi threw the first pitch to Worcester Bravehearts center fielder Trevor Johnson, the crowd buzzed. When Tom Blandini singled home the Nashua Silver Knights’ first run of the game, the crowd cheered. When Kyle Murphy induced a groundball to second base for the final out and players streamed out of the first-base dugout, the crowd was deafening.
The Silver Knights had just won the 2017 FCBL championship for the second consecutive season and fourth time -- another accomplishment in the franchises’ dominant seven-year history. This year’s, however, was perhaps the most exhilarating, especially considering the postseason upset required for the victory.
“The atmosphere in Nashua is a winning one,” said manager B.J. Neverett. “The kids feed off of that. With all that support, how could you not play well?”
If nothing else, injuries held the Silver Knights down for the majority of the season. 27 different pitchers were used and Nashua just slipped into the postseason picture as the fifth seed.
“Throughout the season, you lose some guys to injuries,” said Kyle Murphy, who received the series MVP award in an on-field ceremony after the game. “Everything just started to mesh towards the end.”
With only a 2-0 lead heading into the top of the ninth, Murphy had one job: win. He walked the first batter, before inducing two fly balls. Nashua was one out away, and the pressure was on.
“I’ll admit it, I was a little tired from last night.”
Pat DeMarco hit a groundball to second base. Flip it to second. Champions.
“I got charged, and all the rest is history,” said Murphy.
Murphy was at the bottom of the pile.
“That hurt a little bit, I’m not gonna lie.”
The Silver Knights first led in the second, and the lead was held. Nashua’s starter, Lupi, kept Worcester off of the scoreboard by facing just three over the minimum through his first six innings.
It was nothing out of the ordinary -- in three of the Silver Knights’ previous four postseason games, the pitching had allowed just six earned runs over 27 innings. The lone blemish was on August 9th in an eventual 10-9 win for Nashua.
“Lupi was phenomenal,” said Neverett. “We got great starts, then you add that to the bullpen -- it was pretty great.”
Coupled with strong pitching and a violently enthusiastic crowd, the Bravehearts didn’t stand a chance. The only hit Worcester recorded from the fifth inning onward was a single by Mariano Ricciardi, erased when the next batter grounded into a double play.
“It’s a great organization,” said Neverett. “I’m just so thrilled. It’s just a great night here.”
Until Opening Day of the 2018 season, Nashua will ride high on their success. But when the time comes, the Silver Knights will need to defend their title. Is Neverett ready for next year?
“I’ll be on vacation for the next two weeks.”
And after all his team has been through, Neverett deserves it.