Thursday, August 14, 2008

Sweep Success

Sweep Success

By Nick Curcuru

ESSEX — All season long, the strength of the Manchester Mariners Inter-Town League baseball team was pitching and defense.

As it turned out, pitching and defense not only won them games, it won them a league championship.

Manchester players duck for cover as a bottle of champagne is opened after the Mariners defeated Hamilton, 2-0, in the Inter-Town League finals at Memorial Field. Desi Smith/Gloucester Daily Times

The Mariners completed their three-game sweep with a 2-0 victory over Hamilton yesterday at Memorial Field. Manchester got four complete games in six playoff contests and allowed just three and a half runs a game. Their defense was equally as good, committing just one error in the playoffs.

"This is the way we have won all year, with our pitching and defense," Mariners manager and catcher Bryan Lafata said. "Today was a perfect display of our strengths, we got a great pitching performance, and any balls that were hit hard, our defense made the plays."

Jack Brancaleone picked up the win for the Mariners going the distance and allowing just four hits. The win was Brancaleone's second series-clinching win, he beat Rockport 6-2 to give the Mariners a berth in the finals.

Manchester-Esssex second Basemen Mike MacFarland puts the tag on Mark Potter during last night’s Inter-Town League Finals. Desi Smith/Gloucester Daily Times

Although they were swept, Hamilton made the series a lot closer than it looked. The Generals lost the three games by a total of five runs, and were a hit or two away from winning each game.

"That's the way baseball is," Generals manager and right fielder Tom Jones said. "Some times you catch breaks some times you don't. The fact of the matter is they were a little bit better than we were in every facet of the game, that's why they beat us by a little bit each game. But I'm happy for Manchester, they were the best team all season."

The Mariners looked to be on their way to a big offensive game scoring two runs on six hits in the first two innings. Rory Gentile made it 1-0 Mariners when he came in to score on a fielder's choice. The Mariners looked to add another run on a Nate Bertolino single, but base-runner Joe Orlando was thrown out at home plate on a perfect throw from center fielder Jim Maloney (two hits).

That was all of the scoring the Mariners would get, as Hamilton pitcher John Jackson stymied the offense from there on in. The hard-throwing right-hander retired 10 straight Mariners at one point. Unfortunately for Jackson, Brancleone was equally up to the task.

"The pitching in this series was great," Jones said. "Both teams brought their best and it was fun to watch two good pitching staffs go at it."

The Mariners dedicated their season to assistant coach Jared Knowlton, who passed away earlier this summer. Knowlton, who was a veteran of the league, inspired the team to win.

"We didn't even need to say anything, we all knew Jared motivated each one of us," Lafata said. "We won this for him."

All in all Lafata was glad to win a championship with such a close team. The long time manager said the team's chemistry and love for the game gave them an advantage over any team they played.

"This is a great group of guys," Lafata said. "Everyone came down every night and had fun playing the game. They came together as a team both on and off the field, and now we have a championship to show for it."