Thursday, August 12, 2021
The margin for error was thin. The Nashua Silver Knights would’ve had to run the table in their remaining four games, while the Worcester Bravehearts needed to lose every remaining game and the Westfield Starfires had to lose at least one.
But on the second-to-last day of the season, it was a possibility: The Silver Knights could make the postseason if everything went exactly according to plan.
It didn’t. Nashua dropped the first game of its Thursday doubleheader against the Brockton Rox 6-5, then lost a wild second game 11-10, officially removing the team from contention for the fourth and final playoff spot. It marks the end of the long road of the 2021 team, which hobbled out of the gate but picked up steam in an improbable last-minute push.
That’s the takeaway for manager Kyle Jackson. The fact that the Silver Knights were even in the conversation as late as they were is a miracle in and of itself, and a signal of what the team was able to accomplish through its 66-game grind.
The Silver Knights ended the first half of the season with only 11 wins. At the time, they sat in dead last, almost as far behind seventh place as the distance between seventh place and first.
“You would never have thought the eighth-place team would be eliminated on the second-to-last day of the season,” Jackson said. “Never in your wildest dreams would you think that … They busted their butts.”
But after entering the second-half with an 11-24 record, Nashua went on a 16-12 run — including a streak of eight wins in a row, the second-longest win streak in franchise history — to end the season within spitting distance of the playoffs. With one game still to be played, the Silver Knights sit in sixth place.
The effort salvaged a season that could’ve been brutal from start to finish. It also took a lot out of the team.
“It’s been a long, long season. I’m tired. The kids are tired,” Jackson said. “The goal was always to win a championship, but you know what, at the end of the day, these guys gave the fans everything they had and never gave up on any game.”
That exhaustion showed on Thursday. The Silver Knights were down 4-0 early in game one when starter Jack Beauchesne struggled through the first two innings, giving up seven hits and walking two.
But Nashua clawed its way back, scoring two in the second inning before John Mead’s two-run homer tied the game in the third.
Ultimately, two runs allowed by the bullpen in the fifth inning meant a loss — and elimination from playoff contention.
While the importance of game two was nullified by the elimination, Nashua fought back once again. Down 11-5 in the sixth inning — the second-to-last inning of a seven-inning game — the Silver Knights scored five to come within one. The comeback ultimately fell short.
It was Nashua’s second doubleheader in three days, and they faced the possibility of a doubleheader on Friday if they were still in playoff contention.
“You’re trying to make a push and trying to make yourself an opportunity and you just run out of pitching because you have too many games going on,” Jackson said. “We kind of ran into that situation tonight.”
That included having Shane McNamara, a Silver Knights outfielder, make his pitching debut in the top of the seventh inning.
“The guys played hard,” Jackson said. “Credit to them, they gave [themselves] a shot.”
The doubleheader wraps up the home half of Nashua’s schedule. They’ll travel to Worcester on Friday to play the Bravehearts for the last game of the season.