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PREVIEW: FCBL CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES GAME ONE

ON DECK

 

The No. 5 seeded Nashua Silver Knight baseball team (26-27), coming off of a FCBL Semifinal Series sweep of the Bristol Blues, continue 2017 FCBL Playoff play by taking on No. 6 seeded Worcester Bravehearts on Friday (August 11) in Game One of the FCBL Championship Series at Hanover Insurance Park in Worcester, MA. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. ET.

 

Friday’s contest will be streamed on the Worcester Bravehearts Broadcast Network and the ‘Voice of the Silver Knights’ Joey Leblanc will have the call of the action on WSMN 1590 AM.

 

Nashua and Worcester return to the FCBL Championship series for the second straight year. The Silver Knights are the only team in New England Summer Baseball to make a league championship in five of the past seven seasons. As for the Bravehearts, they have made the championship for the fourth straight season.

 

The best-of-three series will start in Worcester on Friday, then move to Nashua for games two and three.

 

Nashua played the Worcester in the 2015 FCBL Championship Series, a  series which the Silver Knights swept for their third FCBL Championship.

 

The 2017 FCBL Playoffs consist of the top six teams in the league. Of the nine teams in the league, the top six made the playoffs off of total points possible in games played.

 

The FCBL adopted a home run derby in its 2017 season. After the 11th inning, teams would participate in a three minute derby, with the winning team walking away with two points and the losing team with one point.

 

Nashua is 16-5 all-time in the FCBL Playoffs, with the 2017 season being the seventh consecutive appearance for the franchise in the playoffs, the longest streak in league history.

 

All-time, the Silver Knights are 6-2 in FCBL Championship games, with wins over Torrington, Worcester and two losses  to Martha’s Vineyard in 2013.

 

In an FCBL Championship Series, Nashua has won gone 3-1.

 

The Silver Knights won the 2016 FCBL Championship, defeating the Torrington Titans 6-2 in a Wild Card game. Nashua went on to defeat in-state rival Seacoast in the semifinal series 2-1, highlighted by a 10-9 win in the third game. The season was capped off with a sweep of the Worcester Bravehearts in the championship series, including a 9-8 walk off win in game one.

 

Nashua also won the league championship in 2011 and 2012 with series sweeps over the Torrington Titans and Brockton Rox.

 

SCOUTING THE BRAVEHEARTS

 

Nashua and Worcester have met seven times this FCBL season, as the Silver Knights lost the season series 4-3. The last win Nashua had over the Bravehearts was on July 30th, a 10-7 win for the Silver Knights. StigErik McElhinney got the start for Nashua, earning his fourth win of the season. McElhinney will start game No. 1 of the series.

 

The last time the two teams met was on Friday, Augst 4th at Holman Stadium, a 12-4 loss for Nashua.

 

In the seven times the two teams have played this season, Nashua hosted three of the games. The Knights went 1-2 at home against the Bravehearts. Since 2014 when the Bravehearts joined the FCBL, Worcester holds the all-time series 14-10. It is the only all-time series that the Knights do not have more wins in.

 

The Worcester Bravehearts are managed by JP Pyne, former manager of the Nashua Silver Knights. Pyne, the head baseball coach at Clark University, led Worcester to last year’s FCBL Championship Series berth.

 

THE TOP OF THE LEAGUE

 

With a 4-3 win over the Bristol Blues on Thursday night, the Nashua Silver Knights sealed its second straight apperance in the FCBL Championship Series.

 

It also marks the fifth time in the past seven seasons that the Silver Knights have made the FCBL Championship, the only team in New England Summer Baseball to do so.

 

SILVER KNIGHTS TOP BLUES 10-9, TAKE SERIES LEAD

 

All season, Nashua Silver Knights manager B.J. Neverett has been singing the same tune: Score early and things will fall into place. Heading into Wednesday night’s game against the Bristol Blues, nothing was different -- the Silver Knights would have to score early to stay in the game.

If only it could be that simple.

 

The Silver Knights beat the Blues 10-9 on Wednesday night at Holman Stadium, the first of a three-game semifinal playoff series. Perhaps one of the craziest games of the season for Nashua, the game began with the appearance of a blowout. Of course, it didn’t end that way.

 

The Silver Knights scored two in the first and had an offensive confidence heading into the third. Nashua’s first two hitters, Cam Cook and Kyle Bonicki, singled. Ryan Sullivan didn’t miss a beat. He swung.

 

The ball left Holman Stadium just above the Atlas Fireworks sign in right field.

 

One out later, Austin Young swung.

 

The ball left Holman Stadium just above the Atlas Fireworks sign in right field.

 

By this point, the score was 8-2, but the Blues didn’t simply roll over -- they fought back.

 

Bristol capitalized off of two Nashua misplays to score one in the third. A home run in the fourth scored another, and four baserunners in the fifth scored four runs. Backed by a walk, a double and two singles in the sixth, the Blues had tied the Silver Knights 8-8.

 

Tomorrow, the Silver Knights will continue their attempt to capture the FCBL championship in Bristol. Nashua just needs one win to advance.

 

In the eighth inning, it looked as if the game would end in disaster. Bristol’s left fielder Logan Greene slugged a ball to left field for his fourth home run of the season, providing the Blues with their first lead of the game with just one inning left for a Nashua comeback.

 

In the bottom of the eighth, Cam Cook singled. So did Kyle Bonicki and Anthony Meduri did so, too. One scored and on an attempt to catch Meduri advancing, the throw was wild. 10-9 Silver Knights.

 

Nashua had the lead. For good, this time.

 

NASHUA DEFEATS PITTSFIELD 5-2 IN WILD CARD

 

The Nashua Silver Knights advanced to the Futures League Semifinals on Tuesday night with a 5-2 win in a Wild Card game against the Pittsfield Suns at Historic Wahconah Park.

 

In the top of the seventh inning right fielder, Tom Blandini (SNHU) hit a one out solo home run down the right field, hitting the foul pole. At the time, the two teams were tied at two. The Silver Knights went on to score two more runs that inning.

 

Second baseman Ted Williams (Millersville) followed Blandini with a single hit right at the pitcher. He scored when the next batter, Cam Cook (Nichols College) hit a double to left field.

 

Cook scored thanks to left fielder Anthony Meduri’s (Binghamton) RBI double to center fielder.

 

The three run, seventh inning put Nashua on top 5-2, a lead it wouldn’t lose the rest of the way.

 

Left-hander Anthony Lupi (Merrimack) was handed the ball for Nashua, going 4.0 innings and allowing runs on six hits. A two-run home run in the bottom of the fourth with no outs ended the day for Lupi.

 

A combination of right-hander Collin Duffley (UMass Lowell), right-hander Cam Cruz (Eastern Michigan), right-hander Jason Johndrow (Hartford) and right-hander Kyle Murphy (Northeastern) got Nashua through the last five innings.

 

The four combined for just three hits and no runs while striking out three batters.

 

Cruz picked up the win, improving his record to 3-0 on the season. The rising junior at Eastern Michigan went two innings, the fifth and sixth.

 

The Silver Knights return to play Wednesday night at Historic Holman Stadium in Game One of the FCBL Semifinals. Nashua will be taking on the No. 2 Bristol Blues in the best of three series, with the winner advancing to the 2017 FCBL Championship Series.

 

GOLD GLOVES

 

Nashua boasts a .967 fielding percentage, the second highest in the league. The Silver Knights have commited just  60 errors in  54 games, averaging an 1.11 errors per game.

 

STRENGTH IN NUMBERS

 

Nashua has established itself as one of the top pitching staff’s in the FCBL in 2017. The Silver Knights own a 4.96 ERA, which is fourth in the league. Nashua also ranks third (.264) in opposing batting average and second in Home Runs allowed (41).

 

Nashua has recorded two shutouts on the season, with a 2-0 win over Bristol on June 1st and anoterh 2-0 win over North Shore on June 7th.

 

The tone for Nashua’s success on the mound has been set by its bullpen.

 

Cam Cruz (Eastern Michigan) boasts the lowest ERA on the team (0.63) and a 2-0 record in 10 relief apperances. On July 17 at Wachusett, Cruz picked up his second win of the season while going three innings of one-hit ball. He did not allow a single run, as he struck out five batters.

 

Kyle Murphy (Northeastern) a right-handed closer for Nashua, left the bullpen to make three starts, but returned to his role as a closer on July 23rd. Murphy finished the regular season with nine saves, second most for saves in the FCBL.

 

Nashua’s group of starters has been highlighted by Anthony Lupi (Merrimack College). The left-hander finished the regular season with a 3-1 record and a 2.86 ERA. He has made one start on the season against the Suns, going 7.0 innings while allowing six hits and no runs. It was the only time Nashua defeated Pittsfield this season and the last time Lupi picked up a win.

 

BATTING CHAMP

 

Third base man Cam Cook (Nichols), a 2017 FCBL All-Star finished the regular season with a .397 batting average, the best in the league. With that, it marks the second straight year Nashua has had the FCBL Batting Champ on its roster. Mickey Gasper, the 2016 FCBL MVP, finished batting a .421.

 

Not only did Cook have the highest batting average, he set the FCBL’s single season hit record with 81. It was previously set at 75 by Kyle Bonicki (Clark), who is now a Silver Knight.

 

Cook currentley has a 20 game hit streak, which began on July 3rd. Of that hit streak, he has had 14 straight hits on the road and has reached at least first base for 24 straight games.

 

A member of last year’s championship team, Cook was picked up by manager B.J. Neverett after last year’s All-Star break and has not left third base since then.

THE MAYOR

Ryan Sullivan returns for year five in Nashua after finishing up his redshirt junior year at Southern New Hampshire University. The first baseman holds the club five all-time club records, including doubles, hits, home runs and RBIs.

 

A 2017 FCBL All-Star, it was his fifth apperance in the league’s All-Star game, the most apperances in league history. A member of 2013 Silver Knight team which lost to Martha’s Vineyard, he returned for 2014-2015. He finally won his first FCBL Championship in 2016, being named the  FCBL Playoffs MVP for his heroics in the championship series.

 

In game one against the Worcester Bravehearts at Historic Holman Stadium, Sullivan hit two home runs, including one in the bottom of the ninth inning to make it a tie ball game and send the game to extra innings.

 

Sullivan finished the 2017 season as one of the best power hitters in the league. His 15 home runs place him second in the league and his 41 RBIs also put him in  second.

 

BEST BATS IN THE LEAGUE

 

Nashua finished off the season as the second best team in the league in batting, with a .294 average and two players ranking in the top batting. Cam Cook had a record-setting season with 81 hits and a .397 batting average. Kyle Bonicki (Clark) finished with 64 hits and a .358 batting average. Ted Williams (Millersville) finished fifth in the league in hitswith 60.

 

SILVER KNIGHTS DRAFTED

Five Silver Knights were drafted in the recent 2017 MLB Draft.

 

Erik Ostberg (Hartford) was drafted by the Tampa Bay Rays  in the 13th round. A Silver Knight in 2015, he was fourth all-time in batting at .349 and was a 2015 FCBL All-Star. He was the first Silver Knight selected in the 2017 draft.

 

In the 22nd round, Boston College Eagle Johnny Adams was drafted by the Seattle Mariners. The Silver Knight from 2013 ranks ninth in hits in a single season with 61 hits. Adams helped lead his Boston College team to a NCAA Oxford regional title and was named the region’s Most Outstanding Player in 2016.

 

Adams, a shortstop, went four for four, driving in three runs and scoring twice. He was 7-for-12 with three runs, four doubles and three RBIs in the Oxford Regional.

 

Ben Bengston (Hartford) was drafted in the 23rd round of the MLB Draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates. A Silver Knight from 2015, Bengston went on to sign with the Pirates.

 

A 2016 FCBL Champion, FCBL All-Star member and All FCBL first team member, Jake Nelson (Penn) was selected in the 33rd round of the draft by the Detroit Tigers. Nelson’s nine saves put him in second for most in a season and career.

 

With 57 strikeouts in the 2016 FCBL season, which placed him first all-time with strikeouts in a season, Drew Fischer (Amherst College) was selected by the Pittsburgh Pirates. Fischer was also a FCBL Champion with the Silver Knights.

 

ON DECK PLAYER OF THE NIGHT, WEEK AND MONTH

The Nashua Silver Knights opened up its seventh season of play recentley, marking the start of a new season’s On Deck Player of the Night, Week and Month.

 

-The OnDeck Sports Futures League Player of the Night for August 2nd, 2017 was Kyle Bonicki (Clark University). Bonicki reached base safely all six times he came to the plate on Wednesday, going 4 for 4 with a pair of walks. He had two singles, a double, and a home run, while scoring three times and driving in four runs.

 

-The OnDeck Sports Futures League Pitcher of the Night for July 17th, 2017 is Cam Cruz (Eastern Michigan). Cruz pitched 3 shutout innings of relief, allowing just 1 hit and striking out 5 batters. He earned the win in the Silver Knights 7-6 victory over the Dirt Dawgs.

 

-The OnDeck Sports Futures League Player of the Night for July 17th, 2017 is Ryan Sullivan (Southern New Hampshire). Sullivan went 2 for 5 with a double, a home run, and 3 runs driven in for the Silver Knights on Monday night. His home run came in the top of the 7th to tie the game up at 6. The Silver Knights would eventually go on to win 7-6 over the Dirt Dawgs.

 

-The OnDeck Sports Futures League Player of the Week for July 3rd to July 9th was Cam Cruz (Eastern Michigan University). Cruz hit .464 over 8 games last week. His 10 RBI were the most by any player last week and his 3 home runs were tied for the most. He also racked up 3 doubles, 1 triple, scored 10 runs and stole 2 bases. He had 6 two-hit games out of the 8 games he played.

 

-The OnDeck Sports Futures League Player of the Night for July 9th, 2017 was Ryan Sullivan (Southern New Hampshire). Sullivan went 2 for 3 with a homer and 4 RBI in the Silver Knights 5 to 2 win over Seacoast. He had a 2 run homer in the bottom of the second and a 2 RBI single in the bottom of the third.

 

-The OnDeck Sports Futures League Player of the Night for July 8th, 2017 was Kyle Bonicki (Clark University). Bonicki went 3 for 4 against Pittsfield, with a single, double, and a homer. His 2 run home run came in the top of the first to help the Siver Knights jump out to an early lead.

 

-  The OnDeck Sports Futures League Player of the Night for July 6th, 2017 was Cam Cruz (Eastern Michigan). Cruz recorded 2 hits, one of which a home run, 3 RBI, 4 runs scored, and a walk in the Silver Knights win on Thursday night. Cruz had 2 of Nashua’s 22 hits in their offensive attack.

 

- Third baseman Cam Cook (Nichols College) picked up the first Silver Knight On Deck award of the season, coming after his 3-for-5 performance  as he drove in three runs and crossed the plate once.

 

-First baseman Ryan Sullivan (SNHU) earned the On Deck Player of Week honor for week two. Sullivan went 8-for-20 with 3 doubles, 2 home runs, 5 RBI, and 3 runs scored. He also walked and was hit by a pitch. He had an OPS of 1.305 for the week and a slugging percentage of .850. Sullivan, who will be a senior in the fall, had at least 1 hit in every game this week for the Silver Knights, as they went 4 and 1 during the week.

 

-Jason Johndrow (Hartford) earned the On Deck Pitcher of the Night on June 17th. Johndrow pitched 3 perfect innings in relief, facing the minimum 9 batters and striking out 4 of them in the Silver Knights 11 to 5 win over the Sharks. Johndrow has pitched 7 and 1/3 innings so far this summer, striking out 10 batters.

 

-The OnDeck Sports Futures League Player of the Night for June 17th, 2017 was Luke Tyree (Marymount University). Tyree went 4 for 5 with a solo homerun and 3 runs scored in the Silver Knights 11 to 5 victory over the Sharks. Tyree, who was a sophomore in the fall, hit .317 with 5 homers and 28 RBI in 41 games played for Marymount.

 

#NEVERETTKNIGHTS

 

Neverett is in his third season at the helm of the Silver Knights. Nashua won 31 games during 2016 season. Neverett has won 73 games at Nashua and has now led the Silver Knights to FCBL Titles in both 2012 and ‘16.

 

SENIORTIS

With eight returners from previous Nashua teams, the Silver Knights have plenty of returning players with FCBL experience. Along with that, 18 members of this year’s roster will be a junior or senior at their respective college’s.

 

Returning from last year’s championship team is outfielder Cam Cruz, outfielder/pitcher Anthony Meduri, right-hander Collin Duffley, third baseman Cam Cook, first baseman Ryan Sullivan and right-hander Taylor Doyle.

 

Manager B.J. Neverett prefers to take older college players, no matter the division, because he believes that if they have not been drafted yet, they’ll work harder to do so.

 

A recipe that has worked before, Neverett did the same thing last year, as players like rising junior Mickey Gasper and rising senior Jeremy Roberts.

 

2016 FCBL Championship

In it’s sixth straight playoff apperance, Nashua entered the 2016 postseason as the No. 3 seed behind the No. 1 Worcester and No. 2 Seacoast.

 

In situation where the Silver Knights could’ve taken the No. 2 seeding from the Mavericks if Nashua had won a few more games at the end, the Knights had to open the playoffs at Holman in the First Round against the Torrington Titans.

 

The first playoff game played at Holman Stadium since the 2013 FCBL Championship Series, the Silver Knights jumped on top of the Torrington Titans 6-2, thanks to a stellar pitching performance from St. John’s Sean Mooney.

 

Headed to the best-of-three semifinal series against  Seacoast, Nashua dropped Game One at Holman Stadium 4-2. The Mavericks were held scoreless in that game until the top of the eighth, when they had a four-run outburst to take a lead they would not lose.

 

Headed to Portsmouth for an elmination game, Nashua held off the Mavericks in a 12-5 game. Headed to the top of the ninth, tied up 5-5, Nashua went on a seven-run scoring spree that put that on top 12-5, evening the series at 1-1.

 

In a winner take all game on August 10, Nashua won 10-9, going round-to-round with the Mavericks and pulling away for the win in the top of the ninth again, when Cam Cruz hit a solo home run.

 

In the FCBL Championship Series against the Worcester Bravehearts, Nashua defeated the Bravehearts in Game One at Holman Stadium, 9-8. Two Ryan Sullivan home runs, the biggest coming in the top of the ninth, a two-run shot to left field tied the game at 8-8.

 

Headed to extra innings, Cam DiSarcina hit a hard grounder to second base, a fielder’s choice that scored Mickey Gasper from third base.

 

In Game Two, the Silver Knights took their league-record third FCBL Championship with an 8-5 win at Worcester.

 

Thanks to stellar pitching from Collin Duffley and Justin Foley, the Knights were able to close out the game.

 

 

FROM WORST TO FIRST

Third-year manager B.J. Neverett’s efforts to restore the shine to the Silver Knights  program have paid off off, culmanating in the 2016 FCBL Championship. Here’s a look at some of the highlights from the regular season:

 

- Nashua’s 31 wins is the second most in the club’s history, next to a 39-win season in 2012.

 

-Last year marked the most hits and highest batting average in program history. With 544 hits and a .282 batting average, the Silver Knights were led by Sullivan and league MVP Mickey Gasper.

 

-With 45 home runs and 278 RBIs, the Knights were able to score runs at will most of the time, scoring in whatever situation. The best example being Sullivan’s two-run homer in Game One against Worcester.

 

- In 2016, the Silver Knights struck out 450 batters, the most recorded in the club’s six year history. With four returning arms from last year’s campaign, Nashua will look to pickup where it left off.

 

-Gasper recorded the highest batting average in league and club history, batting .421 last season en route to the club’s first MVP award. He also hit a club record 21 doubles in one season.

 

-Cam DiSarcina recorded the most hits in a single season in 2016 with 73 hits in the regular season. He also had 15 doubles, placing him fourth in in single season doubles.