By Owen Shadrick
The champs are here!
After an exciting 2020 campaign, the Nashua Silver Knights are back in action and ready to return to Holman Stadium this summer.
Last summer, it was the dominance of Dominic Keegan, the late addition of Kyle Bouchard and the clutch pitching by Nick Guarino and Griffin Young that led the Silver Knights to glory.
However, they start fresh this week. The rings will be handed out and the 2020 team will be honored as they should, but 2021 is the new focus.
Nashua does have some returning faces. The most notable of those being the two previously mentioned pitchers in Guarino and Young.
For Guarino and the entire Futures League, last season was a gift. The league played an entire summer and Guarino was a major part of that, especially down the stretch. Guarino was 4-0 with a 1.12 ERA, earning him All-FCBL First Team honors. In 24 innings, he allowed just 17 hits and three earned runs, while striking out 24 and holding opponents to a .202 average. However, his performance in Game 2 of the Championship series was his biggest story. He threw six innings, allowed just one run and struck out four to force Game 3 and help the Silver Knights celebrate at summer's end.
Last season was a great one, but the focus shifts to this season. On the Back to the Futures podcast, Guarino made it perfectly clear that he is thrilled to be back in Nashua this summer.
“As soon as the championship series ended, (GM Cam Cook) said, ‘You’re back.’ I said absolutely and could not turn it down. I signed the contract a couple of weeks after the season ended. I am pumped to be back up there and to be with the guys again.”
Cook also spoke highly of Guarino.
“He is everything you want in a Division III pitcher,” said Cook. “It doesn’t matter who is in the box, from whatever division or conference, he is going to fill the zone and try to get everyone out. He is just a dog and was exactly what I expected him to be. I am so excited to see him pitch again for us this season.”
The Silver Knights also welcome back Young, who was another staple on the staff and was another major part of their success last season. Young mostly came out of the pen last year, but was dominant when he did. In 11 G, he was 3-2 with a 1.75 ERA. He allowed 19 hits and five earned runs, while striking out 31 and holding opponents to a .207 average. The Silver Knights hope to have him as a starter this summer, but either way will join Guarino in a dominant summer on the hill.
The 2021 roster also features a familiar name from 2019. George Welch, pitcher out of Saint Joseph's College in Maine, is back with Nashua this season. Welch was electric in 2019, appearing in nine games, allowing eight hits and two runs, while striking out 27 and recording a save. Welch’s season was cut short after Tommy John surgery, but is back for 2021.
“We can’t wait to have him back on the team,” said Cook. “No one could touch him in 2019 before his surgery. The fans love him, he is an awesome kid and a great player.”
There are also some new faces heading to the Silver Knights this summer. Connor Hujsak from Virginia Commonwealth University is going to be a major part of the infield after playing regularly for the Rams this spring. Hujsak is a local from Goffstown, NH and was named the 2020 New Hampshire Gatorade Player of the Year. Cook is ready to have his bat “pop” and give the Knights an extra punch in the order.
Tyler Gonzalez is another name to look out for this summer. Gonzalez is another local kid from Windham, NH and is a redshirt freshman at Stetson. Cook is excited for Gonzalez to make an impact and show what he is made of. Gonzalez is also the son of Alex Gonzalez, who played in the Major Leagues for 13 years, mostly with the Toronto Blue Jays.
Futures League baseball is almost back and so are the 2020 Champion Nashua Silver Knights, who look to remain on top.