Thursday, July 30, 2009

Chiefs a-rollin': Ipswich ITL baseball team goes on 6-1 run towards home stretch

"Chiefs A-Rollin'..."
By Joshua Boyd - Ipswich Chronicle

Ipswich - It seems like ancient history when the Ipswich Chiefs were in last place, sitting at 1-6 out of the gate.

People around here might remember those days as “The Soaked Age.”
Rain disrupted schedules all around the Intertown Twilight League, postponing games more than once a week during the wettest June in recorded history. However, raincoats all around New England are seeing less and less use as the sun finally asserts itself in mid-summer. With increased play, the Chiefs have been able to get on a 6-1 roll lately.
Perhaps they should seek out a federal tax credit for using solar power.

The Chiefs, as of July 21, were sitting at 8-9 and were just two points out of the fourth and final playoff spot, held at that moment by Hamilton (9-10). The Chiefs are tied with Rowley for having the second fewest games played in the league (17), just ahead of the last-place Topsfield Tories (16 games, 3-13).
That means, of course, that the Chiefs are on the verge of a baseball binge.
“We have a tough stretch ahead with a bunch of games,” said longtime Chief Ryan Montecalvo. “We play Friday, then two games Sunday, then Monday, Wednesday and next Friday. There’s one other make-up game that is still to be determined if it has to be scheduled — it depends what happens in the league.”
As for the Chiefs becoming a whole new team since their tough start, winning six out of their last seven games and seven of their last nine match-ups, Montecalvo can’t deny there’s been some luck on their side lately.
“When things are going bad, everything seems to go the wrong way — we were losing close games,” said Montecalvo. “When things are going the other way, you start getting those lucky breaks, and you start getting some confidence. We were a good team that was just not playing well earlier in the season. We have had a better last half of the season.”
Ipswich may be one of the older teams in the league, as only two players are currently playing in college (Greg Doucette and Kevin Michael). Montecalvo believes that leads to the rest of the team having to play “catch up” earlier in the year. Michael’s work for Fisher College certainly helped him jump right into the fray.
“Kevin Michael has become the ace of our staff. He’s won his last three starts and has been giving up less than three earned runs,” said Montecalvo. “He helped us turn things around.”
On the subject of pitchers, Michael and Shoreman have comprised the regular 1-2 rotation this season. Chris Lane has also been on the mound, but has taken some tough luck losses.
“He’s lost some one-or two-run games, had some unearned runs, but every year, he is a workhorse for us,” said Montecalvo. “I expect he’ll be a key factor for us toward the end of the season.”
Additionally, Brad Eaton (returning to the team after a hiatus) and the team’s senior member Kevin Smolla have seen starts this year.
“Kevin Smolla is one of the most tenured players in the Intertown Twilight League, at over 20 years,” said Montecalvo. “I’ve played with him in at least 12 of my 14 seasons — he took some years off. He usually pitches a handful of games every year and still gets it done. He’s over 40 now, but he’s still on the mound, which is impressive.”
In three of the Chiefs’ past four games, they scored at least eight runs. As good as the pitching has been this season, the hitting attack has been potent and has played a huge role in the comeback.
“We’re getting contributions from 1-9, not just from a couple guys in the middle of the line-up, but also from guys in the bottom of the line-up,” said Montecalvo.
Rick Sotiropoulos, Dave Shoreman and Montecalvo have been at the heart of the hitting attack this season.
“Dave and I have spent most of the year hitting at or around .500, and Ricky’s not too far behind,” said Montecalvo. “Dave’s hit for a lot of power and I’ve been on base a lot. More recently, Matt Lane has been hot, Travis Doty has been on fire during our winning streak, and Anthony Hernandez has hit well, also.”
The Chiefs still have to face Rowley (second place, 25 points) four times and Beverly (fifth place, 10 points) twice, both on Sunday, before the end of the season. There are no giveaways in the league — Ipswich could win or lose any of these games. Everyone has a chance this year, and Montecalvo loves that about ITL baseball.
“The league is as good as it’s been in terms of competitiveness,” he added. “There are always a few teams that struggle, but on the whole, the league has been more competitive these last two to three years. There are more people at the games, which is nice, and the teams are getting more involved in the communities, like it used to be.”