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Electric Holman atmosphere for Silver Knights

This article was in the Nashua Telegraph on Monday, August 14th. It was written by Tom King. 

Electric.

 

Once again, on a summer night, Holman Stadium was the place to be.

There have been some great moments in this place; we’ve gone over a few of them here in this space many times.

Even this summer, the Team USA-Japan game was something anyone who attended will never forget. Tough to top.

Saturday night’s Nashua Silver Knights clinching of the Futures Collegiate League Championship certainly may have done it.

The Silver Knights have won four FCBL titles in the league’s seven years. The first was on the road in distant Torrington, Conn. It may as well have been on Mars, although there was a nice intimate fan reception when the team returned home around 2 a.m.outside the Holman gates. Last year the club won it in Worcester, with the backdrop of Rte. 290 in the distance.

In the league’s second year, 2012, there was more of a festive atmosphere, as the team won the title at Holman, the first franchise-type title won in Nashua since the days of the Nashua Dodgers. Good crowd, good celebration.

But it didn’t compare to Saturday night. The crowd was just about doubled, announced at 2,469, helped partly by a good Worcester contingent. Yet, after setting a franchise record for attendance, the trend continued on the final night. The place was bananas during and after the Silver Knights topped Worcester 2-0 to complete a two-game sweep.

“The atmosphere in here tonight was electric,” Silver Knights general manager Ronnie Wallace said. “But of course once you get into the playoffs and the finals, we finally had a chance to clinch here at home.

“I think the community really stepped up today. It was awesome. Everyone who we’ve seen here all year was here tonight. And they were so excited.”

Wallace was talking with Worcester team officials and ownership on Friday about the success the two franchises have had, six titles and nine FCBL Finals appearances between them. Worcester has never not been to the final round in their four years of existence. Wow.

“One of the things we talked about was how are these No. 5 and 6 seeds getting to the playoffs, and how did they get to the finals,” he said. “And our fans. We talked about it. There’s only one explanation, and that’s fans from both cities. That fueled both these teams to get here, and certainly helped our guys get over the top.”

“I’ll say this,” Silver Knights manager B.J. Neverett said. “This was a bigger crowd because of where the league is going, and where we’re going in town here. People believe in us now.

The second year was a great crowd, but nothing like tonight. I won a high school championship on this field (with Nashua South in 2005), and that was a big thrill. We were expected to win in 2012; we had 43 wins that year. It wasn’t like this.”

That was the thing that made this championship special – no one thought the Silver Knights could pull this off. They weren’t underdogs in the finals since Worcester actually had a tougher regular season than the Knights, but after the Bravehearts clubbed Nashua 12-4 at Holman on the final Friday night of the regular season, who could have expected such an incredible Silver Night eight days later? Let’s face it, the Knights gave some big Holman crowds their share of a few clunkers this summer.

Uhhh, we think they more than made up for that on Saturday night, no?

“What’s really weird,” Neverett said, “was we didn’t have a walk-off win in this stadium this year.”

Neverett was right. Saturday night was a benchmark for what the Silver Knights have established as a franchise. It’ll be tough to top, but if they rode the momentum of last year’s title for local support, imagine what Saturday could do for next season and beyond. There are certainly more markets to be tapped into in the general area.

It was the vision of former Silver Knights team president Tim Bawwman come to fruition.

“I wish someone had been able to take a Periscope (video) of all the fans going crazy, so he could see what he started,” Neverett said. “I know he could envision this, to see what he started.

“I just know that our fans, the most loyal fans in the league – some of them traveled to Connecticut, some of them traveled all over the place. I’m just totally thrilled for them that they get to see championships on their home field.”

The players certainly responded to the fan support. Look, every baseball entity in the country has its diehard fans, that group the eats and breathes the team and its results. But when over 2,000 come out on short notice for the championship event, it’s more than just die-hards. It certainly fuels the players, many of whom are used to playing in front of 50 or 100 freezing onlookers in March and April at their college games.

“Nashua is definitely a special place in my heart,” said Ryan Sullivan, who spent the better part of five summers with the Silver Knights and played his final game. “To be able to come out and do this for (the fans), I’m speechless. … Like I told you 65 days ago, the only way to top last year was to do it again here. Amazing.”

“They turned it on at the right time,” Wallace said of the players.

So did the Silver Knights fans.

Tom King can be reached at 594-1251, tking@nashuatelegraph.com., or @Telegraph_TomK.