Silver Knights have had busy off-season
NASHUA – Holman Stadium is currently covered with snow, but that’s no big deal.
If the defending Futures Collegiate League Champions Nashua Silver Knights had to start the season today, they could field a team – and then some.
The Knights have had a busy off-season in filling the roster with college player commitments. General manager Cam Cook and manager Kyle Jackson went to work in the fall and inked not one, not two, but 40 players to their roster.
With the league hoping for a full season – and expanding it to 60 games from what would be a typical 56 – it’s probably a smart move.
“Forty seems like a lot, then a week into the season, I’ve got three pitchers down (with injuries) and we’re down to 37,” Cook, the FCBL Executive of the Year, said. “So it’s the thing to do.”
Teams in the Futures League usually make their connections with players in the fall, and then, after a regular college season, injuries, etc. will cause some of the names to drop off the list.
Here’s a preliminary look as we begin 2021 what the Silver Knights may look like once the season hopefully begins in late May:
Think 23 are enough? It begins with a potential MVP in lefty Nick Guarino of Clark, who won the game that clinched a playoff spot and then the second game of the FCBL finals vs. Worcester.
“He’s one of those Divsion III guys that wants to see the other team’s lineup hoping they have the highest level of Division I,” Cook said. “His numbers were unbelievable. He’s as efficient as it gets with pace of play and filling up the strike zone.”
Also back is right Griffin Young (Wheaton) of Dover. Young was the team’s top starter down the stretch, but like Guarino, he can also relieve. “I expect both will be starters, but they were both really good out of the pen,” Cook said.
Other returnees include righty Gabe Driscoll (Binghamton), lefty Shea Ryan (Assumption), and Nichols righty Rob Cobb.
Back also is St. Joseph’s lefty George Welch of Derry, who had to have Tommy John surgery last year but was on the 2019 team – an All-Star, as a matter of fact. Also a key righty reliever Jake Thibault, who was a late pickup during the season from Merrimack, is returning.
But there are plenty of new arms. Righty Scotti Wyatt (of Northeastern) was supposed to join Nashua last year but the Huskies wanted their young arms to take the summer off due to pandemic concerns. Wyatt, fellow Husky righties Phil Diblasi, Jr.of Derry, and Jack Beauchesne of Chelmsford are supposed to be in Northeastern’s starting rotation this coming spring.
Speaking of Northeastern, remember Huskies reliever Kyle Murphy, who closed out the 2017 FCBL title win for the Knights? His younger brother Ryan, a lefty,is a current freshman at the University of Maryland and will join the Knights this summer.
Two established Salvae Regina relievers, righties Graham Jefferies and Ryan Hohmann, are in the fold. “They both throw strikes and not walk the yard,” Cook said.
Another pitcher who was supposed to join the Knights a year ago, Merrimack College’s Timmy Kalantzakos of Andover, Mass., is ready this year. He was projected to be the Warriors’ No. 1 starter before he got hurt last year and missed the abbreviated spring.
“Merrimack moving from Division II to Division I didn’t faze him at all,” Cook said, noting he pitched well in a start or two vs. some high caliber opponents.
Liam Elliot, a righty out Concord, Mass., is one of Umass-Amherst’s top recruits and will be a senior in high school this spring. Another Division I signee is Boston College reliever Aidan Crowley.
UConn’s Owen Kellington, a righty, is set to come to Nashua unless he’s scooped up by one of MLB’s Draft Prospect Leagues. If that happens, the Knights won’t stand in his way.
“We’ve done that with the Cape (Cod League) before,” Cook said. “I hold our team and our league to a high standard, but I played in college and I understand. Go for it, if they cut you loose, we’ll still be here.”
The Knights Penn State connection, that began last year, continues with righty Joe Nastasi and lefty Richie Paltridge.
“Nastasi looks like he’s a Penn State linebacker,” Cook said. “So I looked into it and his dad was a Penn State linebacker. He’s going to be an intimidating guy on the mound.”
Paltridge will be like fellow Nittany Lion Steve Miller was last season for the Knights, a key arm out of the pen.
One of Thibault’s teammates, L.T. Pare, will join the Knights after a season with FCBL opponent Westfield. He went 2-1, 5.40 with two saves in 13 relief appearances. “He pitched well except when he faced us,” Cook said. “I’m sure he’ll be happy pitching for us rather than against us.”
Concord’s Noah Wachter, a lefty, is out of Plymouth State. “His ball runs, he’s got a great slider,” Cook said.
For the first time, Elon is sending Tristan Corcoran, a freshman righty. And Atkinson’s Nick Remy is coming from Winchendon School (prep), headed for UMBC next year. Winchendon coach John Toffey formerly coached with the former FCBL’s Martha’s Vineyard Sharks. “He knows who can succeed here,” Cook said. “So when he says Nick can succeed here, I believe him.”
Obviously, in January – heck even in May – nothing is set in stone. But potential startes include Guarino, Scotti, Young, Beauchesne, Kalantzakos, Kellington, Wachter and Remy are projected starters.
Yes, who will these arms throw to? Jackson will have his choice of three to start, beginning with William & Mary’s Nate Goranson. That school was supposed to send players a year ago but the pandemic halted that. Goranson is expected to be a backup at W&M.
Another catcher Greg Bozzo, has a good story. When the Knights signed him, he was at LaSalle in Philadelphia; weeks later the school shut down its baseball program beyond this year. Bozzo then transferred to Northeastern, giving the Knights four Huskies on the squad.
One of only a couple locals on the team, former Bishop Guertin catcher Alex George of Hollis, is on the roster from Southern New Hampshire University.
There are some interesting players in this group. Maryland’s Matt Orlando is the Terps regular third baseman and was supposed to join the team last summer but was wary of pandemic traveling.
Londonderry’s Brandon Fish, out of Hartford, is a lefty hitting first baseman,
“A carbon copy of what we had last year in Brett Anderson,” Cook said.
SNHU is also sending another first baseman, Dylan O’Sullivan of Manchester, who is a freshman there.
The most interesting infielder? Former New Hampshire Gatorade Player of the Year Connor Hujsak, a shortstop. If that name sounds familiar, the Goffstown High School product who is at Virginia Commonwealth is the son of former Nashua High School punter Jim Hujsack, who honed his kicking skills at Iowa. Connor Hujsack has played as an opponent at Holman. Cook wasn’t aware of the connection. “That’s wild,” he said.
Recent Winchedon grad Pat Casserly, a third baseman, is at Holy Cross – perhaps the first HC player on the Knights.
Palm Beach Atlantic shortstop Sean Houck reminds Cook of the reliable up the middle infielders of Knights teams past, likely a second baseman. Another second baseman is Penn State’s Kyle Hannon, who looks to be a utility player, but he’ll move round the infield.
Nashua’s Nick Perkins returns and can play first, and another middle infielder Sam McNulty, will likely be a reserve at Boston College. But after the success Eagle Lucas Stallman had with Nashua last season, his stock is high.
What could the starting infield look like? Way too early. “Kyle usually likes to take the first week of the season,” Cook said. “For example, Houck’s a shortstop, but he’d probably play a couple games at short, then second, maybe one at third, to kind of see who fits the best. Remember, I was a second baseman at Nichols, and I played third here. … You never know.”
Perkins, by the way, as it stands now is the lone position player on the roster who played at Holman last summer.
The Knights enjoyed superb defense in the outfield last season, and will be looking for the same this year.
Five are on the roster as of now, starting with Maryland’s Logan Ott, a lefty who can also pitch (the way Mike Rounds did last year). He has speed and is said to be sharp defensively.
There are two other lefty’s, William&Marry’s Lucas Carmichael and SNHU’s Alex Kennedy. Carmichael has a running back type build with speed and power, looks to be a corner outfielder at school but could play center here. Kennedy is a veteran Division II hitter, Cook said, “which always plays well in the FCBL.”
UMass center fielder Ryan Coleman is a high .200 hitter who has been very reliable for the Minutemen. And finally, Tulane is sending Cambridege’s Jackson Linn. He may not get many at-bats this spring, but Tulane’s program speaks for itself, Cook said.
The graduating high school seniors: Linn, Diblasi, Beauchesne,Kellington and Elliot.
What does Cook like about the overall roster?
“I think it’s going to be a lot like last year,” he said. “A ton of arms, but no one’s a complete power pitcher who is going to give you six or seven shutout innings. If you can get four or five good innings out of your starter and four back end guys, boom. You can hold the lead.”
And the goal, Cook said, “is to be as similar to last year’s offense as much as possible. A couple of guys who can leave the yard; but on base guys who can steal bases, and move guys into scoring position. I can’t stand strikeouts.”
Power? Nashua had plenty of it a year ago, it changed games. Ott, Carmichael, Hujsak, Perkins, Goranson and Bozzo may have some pop.
There will be no split season in the FCBL, according to Cook. If you remember, before the pandemic hit, that was the plan for the league last year. But that was scrapped with the abbreviated 36-game season that began in early July.
“It’s going to be traditional,” Cook said, adding that’s how the off-season vote went…
Cook said that it’s likely, if there is a full season, it will be 60 games from the previous long season number of 56. Cook didn’t say it but it’s likely a way for teams who couldn’t have fans last year due to the pandemic (Nashua did) to recoup a small fraction of that revenue.