Friday, July 16, 2010

In the News....

"Mariners retain first-place in ITL after going 2-1 against Townies"
By Jason Brisbois/
Cape Ann Beacon

Tuesday’s game between the Mariners and Townies was a microcosm of how things have tended to go between these two Intertown Twilight League franchises over the past few years.

Like most series between the Manchester-Essex and Rockport teams, this game featured multiple lead changes, gutsy pitching performances, key hitting, some missed opportunities, multiple lead changes and yet another close game.

And, as things ended in the 2009 ITL finals between the two teams, Manchester-Essex ended up victorious when everything was said and done.

“They’re our number one rival,” Rockport player/coach Jeremy Spittle said after Tuesday’s 5-3 loss to Manchester-Essex. “It’s always been that way, and it will always be that way. They’re the defending champions and they’re the team to beat until somebody beats them.”

The Mariners not only won the game, they also split Sunday’s doubleheader with Rockport at Evans Field (Rockport took game one, 8-2, while Manchester-Essex won game two in a 16-10 barnburner). This gives the M’s a 3-1 record against the Townies during the regular season, something that could be important down the line once playoff seeds come into play. As it stands now, going 2-1 over the last week against Rockport gives the Mariners a 10-4-1 record, and drops the Townies to 8-6, behind first-place Manchester-Essex and second-place Hamilton.

“To a point, it lets you know you can beat them,” said Manchester-Essex player/coach Bryan Lafata. “But if we play them again in the playoffs, you know it’s always a good series. They also know they can beat us, so it’s not too much of a psychological edge because you know you have to play your best baseball to beat them.”

The Mariners did just that in Tuesday’s victory, coming back from a 3-0 deficit to take a 5-3 lead, while pitchers Lucas DaSilva, Charlie Choate (who got the save) and Matt Hildebrandt combined to stave off a hungry Rockport offense that loaded the bases three times in the game, only to come up empty.

“Those are three guys who haven’t gotten a lot of innings,” Lafata said of his trio of pitchers. “It’s nice to get a win versus a team like that, and use some of our lesser-used pitchers.”

Mike MacFarland, Rory Gentile and Chris Maki provided key hits for the M’s (MacFarland smacked a solo homer that provided the Mariners with an insurance run). Meanwhile, Derek Osmond put in a gutsy performance on the mound for Rockport.

“I’ve got to give credit to Derek Osmond,” explained Spittle. “He gave up five runs, but he pitched his heart out. He pitched the second game Sunday, and pitched the whole game today. They got some runs, but for the last couple of innings he kept us in the game. We just missed some opportunities on offense. I can think of three times we had the bases loaded, but didn’t get that one hit we need in those situations.”

The series, which went 2-1 in favor of the Mariners, executed an about-face in fortunes for both teams. Rockport was the hot team going into Sunday’s doubleheader, winning three in a row and breathing down Manchester-Essex’s neck. The Mariners had just broken a three-game losing streak before toppling Ipswich prior to Sunday.

The Mariners are hoping it’s a sign of things to come for them.

“When you beat teams like Ipswich and Rockport, who are good every year, it’s a big confidence booster for us,” said Lafata. “If we can carry this momentum for a week or two, we could clinch a playoff spot early and take some weight off our backs.”

The Townies, on the other hand, are looking forward to the next game (Rockport plays Beverly on Friday, a day after the Mariners are scheduled to take on the Giants) as a means of putting this series behind them.

“We’re trying to take it on a game-to-game basis,” said Spittle. “Maybe we hit a bit of a roadblock, but I think we’ll be okay. Now, we’re starting again, resetting for Friday at home versus Beverly. They’ve lost seven straight, but we can’t take any game lightly. We have to take it one game at a time.”