Thursday, August 7, 2008

Top-seeded Chiefs ousted by Hamilton in first round

Top-seeded Chiefs ousted by Hamilton in first round
By Joshua Boyd

Ipswich - When it all comes down to it, first place in the Intertown Twilight League guarantees you one home game in the playoffs.

That is all that is guaranteed, as you have to win at least two games to stay alive in the tournament to see any more benefits from the regular season championship. The Chiefs could not do that, as they lost to the Hamilton Generals in two straight games to get bounced from the Intertown Twilight League playoffs.

Following the team’s 7-2 loss to Hamilton to open up the Intertown Twilight League playoffs on Aug. 4, the Chiefs’ player-manager David Shoreman wasn’t too enthusiastic about first place anymore. That was especially true when they lost the next night, 3-0, to get bounced from the playoffs.

“Right now, it’s irrelevant,” he said. “We fought hard all year, but the same thing is happening this year that happened last year — finish first, then come into the playoffs a little flat.”

Indeed, the Chiefs did finish up with a 15-7-1 record. To show how strong a finish they had, consider that after their June 22 game, they were just 3-5-1 at the time.

“We’ve been coming on so hard for the past month, losing just once in a month. We need to be grounded, we need to come in with a chip on our shoulder and be ready to play,” said Shoreman.

“This is the second year in a row being knocked out in the first round after finishing first in the regular season,” said teammate Chris Lane.

Lane pitched the second game on Aug. 5 against Hamilton, giving up four hits and three runs (just one earned, a solo homerun in the fifth inning).

Matt Lane and Travis Doty had the only Ipswich hits until the seventh inning, when the Chiefs loaded the bases, but stranded all runners.

Two misplayed balls in the third inning led to the other two runs that Hamilton put up, outscoring Ipswich 10-2 in the two games.

“Overall, it’s a tough loss to swallow. But when you look at what we accomplished over the last month or so, it’s pretty remarkable,” said Lane. “We lost one game to finish the regular season. We had one loss to Rockport and won every other game we played, and eventually went from sixth place to first. We came up short this year, but we are already talking about next year and what we need to do to get better.”

To start off the Aug. 4 match-up, Jim Maloney (2-5, RBI, stolen base) led off the game with a double down the right field line. With two on and two out, Andre Painchaud (2-4, two RBIs) delivered a two-run single, putting the Generals ahead with the Chiefs coming to bat.

Ipswich battled right back, as Anthony Hernandez nailed a double to right field, bringing in Ipswich’s lead-off man Rick Sotiropoulos, who had been hit by a pitch by Jon Jackson.

In the top of the second, Shoreman stranded three runners on base, but Hamilton would rise again. Not before Shoreman would knock a home run against the back of the Little League scoreboard in the top of the third, though.

“The homerun was nice. I was hoping it would bring a little life back to us, put us on a roll a little bit” said Shoreman, whose solo homer tied the game going into the top of the fourth inning. “We put two quick ones on them, but we couldn’t close them out from there.”

And, of course, Mark Provost tagged the Chiefs with a two-run homer of his own in the top of the fourth, to put Hamilton up 4-2.

Hamilton kept rolling from there, adding two more runs in the fifth inning. Mark Potter and Maloney picked up RBI singles in that inning. It would’ve been 7-2 right there, but Sotiropoulos tagged out Reggie Maidment at home plate.

However, in each of the fourth, fifth and sixth innings, the Chiefs only sent three batters to the plate. Potter’s seventh-inning double to score Andre Painchaud for the final, decisive run.

“They can hit the ball,” said Shoreman, the pitcher of record, helped out by closer David Doucette. “I tip my hat, they did a good job. I put them on base a couple too many times and they took advantage of it. I didn’t do good enough job holding runners on, and they took advantage of it. Other than that, they put the ball where we weren’t. Sometimes you get them, sometimes you don’t.”

This year, Lane said, the Chiefs had quite a few additions that helped mold the Chiefs.

“Kevin Michael really stepped up and proved himself. Zach Graves was a solid role player, and Mike Blaise, who caught for us as well, brought his veteran status and experience to the club,” Lane added.

Every player, though, has to bring his game face in order to earn wins.

“You’ve got to come ready to play,” he added. “Otherwise, it’s a long eight months [until the next season].”