Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Hamilton Generals look to makeup ground in ITL

Hamilton Generals look to makeup ground in ITL
By Dom Nicastro - HW Chronicle

Hamilton -
Rain is making for a busy second half of the Intertown Twilight Baseball League for the local nine.

But lumping a bunch of makeup games together because of weeks of rain may not be the worst thing for Hamilton.

According to player/manager Tom Jones, his team’s strength is its depth. And he’s counting on it to carry the Generals past the .500 mark in the latter half. The Generals went 4-6 in the first half and stand in fourth place of the seven-team league as of Monday.

“We have tremendous depth this year both in the field and on the mound, which has really paid off,” Jones said. “We've been in every game this year despite the fact that we haven't had the same lineup once this season. All the guys have stepped up and filled in spots they might not be as comfortable with to help out the team.”

The record says otherwise, but the Generals have been competitive. Of the team’s six losses, all but one have either been by one run or in extra innings.

“We compete in every game, which will start to pay off over the second half, I think,” Jones said. “With all the rain we will be forced to play many makeups in the second half, which I think we will have an advantage because we have such a deep team. It will help a lot to have so many quality pitchers when we start having regular four-game weeks.”

Hamilton’s Mark Provost leads the ITL in batting average so far. Jered Stewart is leading in home runs.

However, the Generals have not been able to get the big hit as often as they would like, Jones said. Last season’s MVP, Jim Maloney, has been out all season due to an injury. Jones said he might return soon.

“He is really missed in the lineup,” Jones said. “Offensively we have struggled as a whole. Specifically we haven't been able to deliver the big key hit as a team. Hopefully in the second half we will benefit from this as we haven't thus far in this season.”

Mike Drinkwater and Jon Jackson have been the team’s best pitchers statistically and are among the league leaders in strikeouts and ERA.

As always, the deeper pitching staff wins in the end, and Jones said his can compete in that department.

Manchester Essex (9-1), Rowley (6-2) and Rockport (5-5) are all ahead of Hamilton thus far.

“The league is really looking competitive from top to bottom this year,” Jones said. “Everyone can beat everyone on any night. Manchester Essex seems to be the team to beat so far based on their record. They've been in a lot of tough games and have been coming out on top. We look to push through and share in some similar success for the second half. There really aren't any easy games on the schedule this year. Teams will be battling for the four playoff spots right down to the wire.”

The Generals most recent win came over Topsfield, 10-2. Mike Drinkwater allowed only two runs over four innings of work en route to the win.

The Generals did most of its damage in the third inning, sending 11 men to the plate and scoring seven times. Jones and Provost had back-to-back RBI doubles. Jeff Jensen also contributed with an RBI double of his own later in the inning. The Generals led, 7-0, after three innings.

The Generals tacked on three more in the sixth. Bryan Vitale and Luke Painchuad both had RBI singles.

Jensen pitched the last two innings for Hamilton.

Jones, Provost, Vitale, Jensen and Painchuad all had multiple hits for the Generals. The teams were set to play Tuesday at Patton Park.

Vitale homered in an earlier, eight-inning 6-4 loss to Manchester Essex. Jered Stewart had an RBI single.