Friday, August 8, 2008

Mariners Move On...

Manchester moves on Manchester knocks off defending champ Rockport, headed to finals

By Nick Curcuru

ESSEX — For the first time in four seasons, the Inter-Town Baseball League will have a new champion. The three-time defending champion Rockport Townies saw their bid for a fourth straight championship come to an end at the hands of the Manchester Mariners. Manchester knocked off Rockport, 6-2, at Memorial Field In Essex to take the best-of-three playoff series 2-1. With the win, Manchester will face Hamilton in the finals starting tomorrow (4 p.m. Memorial Field).

"This was a great win," Mariners catcher Bryan Lafata said. "It wasn't pretty but it worked. We showed a lot of heart and we put it all together when we needed to most."

With the loss, the Townies failed to make the finals for the first time in 10 years, Rockport would go on to win six championships in that span. Although the team didn't reach their goal, Rockport catcher Jeremy Spittle said the team put together a great run.

"It was one heck of a run we went on," Spittle said. "And I have no reason to believe that this team won't be back. This is just a bump in the road, we will be back and re-tooled next season."

Trailing 2-0 heading into the bottom of the fifth inning, Manchester took the lead for good, plating four runs. Rockport pitcher Brent Currier was in control when everything came apart, as three of the four runs were unearned.

Manchester made it 2-1 when Nate Bertolino (3 RBI) drove in Rory Gentile (single), with a sacrifice fly. The Mariners tied up the score two batters later when Joe Orlando (two hits) came in to score on a fielding error. The Mariners would add two more runs in the inning when Lafata came in to score on an infield single, and Ty Haskell scored when Dylan Maki was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded. The Mariners added two more runs in the sixth to put the game away.

"We let this one get away," Spittle said. "Brent (Currier) was in control and made some great pitches in the fifth. They just hit the ball where we weren't and we didn't make the plays in front of us. It's tough to swallow but it's a part of the game, they beat us."

Jack Brancaleone picked up the win for the Mariners going the distance and allowing two runs on seven hits. Lafata was hoping to get a couple of innings out of Brancaleone, but he kept getting stronger as the game went along picking up the third straight complete game for a Mariners pitcher in the series.

"Jack pitched great," Lafata said. "He made a couple of mistakes early but he got stronger as the game went on. He did a great job getting ahead in the count and keeping (Rockport) on the defensive."

Manchester will now turn their focus to Hamilton, which fell to Rockport in the finals last season and took two of its three meetings with the Mariners this season.

Lafata stressed that his team needs to bring the same focus that helped them get by Rockport.

"Hamilton will be a tough series," Lafata said. "They are a smart, solid team. We have to stay focused like we have been. (Tomorrow) starts a whole new series and we are going to take it one game at a time."