By Mark Colley
Despite a strong outing from starter Jake Thibault, the Nashua Silver Knights’ bats were nowhere to be found in a 5-3 loss to the Vermont Lake Monsters Tuesday night.
Thibault, in his third start of the season, gave up three runs and struck out eight over six innings — his longest appearance of the year. He also didn’t walk a batter, making it 13 consecutive innings to start the season without issuing a free pass.
Thibault’s one rough inning was the second, when he gave up all three runs on a hit by pitch, two singles and a double.
But the Nashua lineup, a consistent point of frustration 16 games into the season, failed to do its job with only four hits and 12 strikeouts.
“The bats will come along,” manager Kyle Jackson said. “We’re seeing a lot of new guys that haven’t seen live pitching in awhile, so I think this week will be a good thing for these guys to get out there.”
Those new additions to the roster include Dylan O’Sullivan, who hit a two-run home run in the bottom of the second to bring Nashua back within one run. The Silver Knights tied it up in the fifth inning with a single from another new roster addition, Connor Hujsak.
“After that home run [from O’Sullivan], I was like, I gotta put up some zeros for these guys so they can bring the offense alive,” Thibault said. “That was my mentality — pound the strike zone early, make the defense work.”
Excluding the second inning, Thibault faced only two over the minimum, including three consecutive one-two-three innings between the third and fifth frames.
But Thibault’s work fell apart when he handed the ball to the bullpen. On the first pitch from Tristan Corcoran, the first man out of the bullpen, Lake Monsters center fielder Andrew Bergeron hit a home run over the short wall in left field to take a 4-3 lead.
The lead grew in the top of the ninth with a frenzy of stolen bases from the bottom of Vermont’s lineup. Back-to-back walks, three stolen bases and a suicide squeeze made it 5-3.
After the fifth, Nashua didn’t score again.
Jackson said the mentality of pitchers takes a hit when the offense is struggling.
“If the guys aren’t hitting … it’s like, I don't want to fail,” Jackson said. “I want to make a perfect pitch. You get out of your comfort zone and your stuff doesn’t work.”
For the Silver Knights, Tuesday’s loss was the 11th of the season and their sixth in the last eight games. With the offense struggling and pitching working furiously to catch up, Nashua hasn’t clicked yet.
Part of that is a roster that, until now, has been constantly in flux. Part of that is a schedule that has always been too much or too little. Now, as the excuses become fewer and further between, it’s time for the Silver Knights to perform.
“This is the team now,” Jackson said he told the players after the game. “We’ve got a few more guys coming in … but this is your team.”
Nashua will go on the road to play the Norwich Sea Unicorns on Wednesday night before returning to Holman Stadium Thursday. First pitch against the Pittsfield Suns is scheduled for 6 PM Thursday.