Friday, August 7, 2009

Townies, Mariners sweep first round series for all-Cape-Ann final

Townies / Mariners Sweep First ROund Series for all-Cape-Ann Final
By Jason Brisbois / Cape Ann Beacon

From here on out, the Intertown Twilight League could be considered, “All Cape Ann, all the time.”

Both of Cape Ann’s entries into the oldest professional baseball league in the country swept their respective first-round series in the playoffs, setting up the best-of-five final series between the Rockport Townies and Manchester/Essex Mariners. The Mariners swept Rowley in two games, winning game one by an 8-1 score and game two by a 9-0 score, while the Townies took game two against Ipswich, winning by a 12-5 score.

“We played each other tough during the season, and I don’t expect that to change,” says Townies player/coach Jeremy Spittle. “It’s gonna be a fun series knowing both teams are gonna compete and play hard the way they know how to. I’m especially looking forward to it, because in my opinion this is the best rivalry in the ITL. It doesn’t get any better than Rockport/Manchester.”

Manchester/Essex will host game one at 2 p.m. on Sunday afternoon, with a 6 p.m. start time scheduled for game two in Rockport on Monday. Game three is in Essex at 5:30 p.m., with 2 p.m. start times next Saturday and Sunday for games four and five, if necessary.

Both teams have relied on balanced attacks throughout the season to pick up wins. The Townies and Mariners have been carried by good pitching, defense and hitting this summer.

“Biggest keys for us in this series are pitching, defense and timely hitting,” says Spittle. “If we do well in those three areas, then I like our chances. Manchester has the best pitching in the league and we will need to grind out at bats and make them work. We’ll also need to neutralize their hitters as well. Nothing comes easy, but we like the challenge and I know we will be fine as long as we just have fun and play the game.”

There’s also an element of familiarity with two teams so close in geography and history. The last two ITL champions were the Mariners in 2008 and the Townies in 2007.

“Both Rockport and Manchester/Essex have great traditions, and as you look up and down both rosters, you see a great mix of veterans, with some young talent on Cape Ann,” says Manchester/Essex player/coach Bryan Lafata. “Being so close and familiar with Rockport is good as it almost removes the element of surprise. The Townies know our strengths and weaknesses, as we do about them. That way it just comes down to who makes the plays on defense and who comes up with the timely hitting.”