Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Mariners, Townies occupy ITL’s top two spots

"Mariners, Townies occupy ITL's Top Two Spots"
By Jane Fosberry Enos / Cape Ann Beacon

CAPE ANN - It’s a month later, and it seems the local baseball teams that participate in the Intertown Twilight League have switched places from where they were around mid-June.

It was at this point that Manchester/Essex was on a roll, starting the season with a 7-1 record. It was also at about this point that the Rockport Townies were struggling to find a rhythm, hovering just under the .500 mark and looking for more consistency.

Now it’s mid-July, and the Mariners are still in first place with an 11-4 record, and the Townies are firmly in second with a mark of 9-5. But it’s what’s happening on the field that has switched between the two teams. Now it’s the Mariners who are scuffling to play consistent ball, and the Townies who are on a roll.

“We hadn’t been playing the greatest ball and we were still winning games,” says Mariners’ player/coach Bryan Lafata. “Now, we’re not playing the greatest and playing about .500 ball, splitting series every time. We’re undermanned without our regular starting pitchers.

“We haven’t been that consistent,” continues Lafata. “With the rain and everything, and our pitchers not getting a chance to throw, it’s tough to find a rhythm. We’re still working to get a set lineup.”

In Rockport, the story is decidedly different. The Townies have won four straight and rocketed into second place. With the warmer weather and a schedule tightly packed with games, the Townies have been able to get into that desired rhythm and get back in the race for a playoff spot. And Rockport has been doing it in dramatic fashion, rallying in the seventh inning to break a 3-3 tie and pull out a 6-3 win over Hamilton on Tuesday.

“We’re happy not to have a prolonged break,” says Townies player/coach Jeremy Spittle. “Those are bad for us, as evidenced by the beginning of the year. This is a good group of guys. As we get going, good things happen. With this stretch of games and with this weather, we can get into synch. We’re playing really loose right now.”

If having multiple games packed into a tight schedule is as good as advertised, then the future looks bright indeed for the Townies. Rockport was scheduled to play Rowley on Wednesday, Topsfield on Thursday, will host Hamilton on Friday and then host Ipswich on Sunday. More games will follow on Monday and Tuesday as well.

The Mariners, meanwhile, played Topsfield on Tuesday and will face them again on Friday, and enter into a big series with Rowley next week.