Monday, August 11, 2008

Mariners Take Game 2

Manchester takes commanding series lead over Hamilton

By Nick Curcuru

HAMILTON ­— Nothing comes easy in the Inter-Town League finals.

That's what Manchester Mariners manager and designated hitter Bryan Lafata said after Game 2 of the league championship against Hamilton last night.

Manchester has played Hamilton four times this season and every game but one was decided by two runs or less. There was no bucking the trend yesterday as the Mariners squeaked out a 4-3 win over the Generals at Patton Park. With the win, the Mariners take a 2-0 series lead in the best-of-three series, and can clinch the championship with a win in game three on Wednesday (5:30 p.m., Memorial Field, Essex). Manchester took game one from the Generals 4-2 on Saturday.

"Every time we play (Hamilton) it goes right down to the wire," Lafata said. "It was no different (yesterday) and I expect it to be no different for the rest of the series. Fortunately we were able to get one more runner home."

Hamilton manager and right fielder Tom Jones echoed Lafata's sentiment.

"It was anyone's game, just like it is every time we play," Jones said. "We are in a hole now, but the pressure in on them to finish us off. We will be pretty loose come Wednesday."

Mariners pitcher Mike Gibbon picked up the win, out-dueling Generals hurler Judd Funchion. Both pitchers contained the opposing offense while dealing with constant rain, which resulted in two weather delays.

"Gibbon and Funchion both pitched great," Lafata said. "Mike got up in the count again and wasn't afraid to use his defense."

Knotted at one heading in to the fifth, the Mariners took the lead when Lafata drove in Mike Cain (walk) with a sacrifice fly. The Mariners took a 4-1 lead in the sixth when Ty Haskell doubled in Nate Bertolino, who reached on a single. Haskell would come in to score later in the inning on a wild pitch.

Gripping the wet baseball appeared to be a problem for Funchion in the later innings, a problem that the Mariners took advantage of. Even though the slippery ball appeared to lead to the eventual winning run for the Mariners, Jones down played the situation.

"Both teams had to deal with the rain," Jones said. "They were throwing a wet ball too. They did benefit from wild pitches but that wasn't the difference in the game."

Just when it appeared that the Generals were out, they answered back plating two runs in the bottom of the sixth on a Jared Stewart two run home run. Hamilton put the lead runner on base in the seventh, but relief pitcher Cain was able to get a double play and a ground out to end the game.

Up 2-0 in the series, Manchester is hoping to bring home the championship on Wednesday.

"Hopefully we will be able to close it out at home," Lafata said. "We don't want to let these guys hang around because they are a dangerous team. Plus they have a deep pitching staff so we know we will have to work for our runs again on Wednesday."