Monday, July 12, 2010

Mariners get back to winning ways, ready for series with Rockport

Mariners get back to winning ways, ready for series with Rockport
By Jason Brisbois
Cape Ann Beacon

Mariners player/coach Bryan Lafata summed things up quite succinctly after Manchester-Essex defeated Ipswich, 5-1, on Tuesday night: “It wasn’t a pretty win, but we’ll take it.”

After losing three games in a row – with two of those three losses coming at the hands of the surging Hamilton franchise that now stands in third place in the Intertown Twilight League – the Mariners went into Tuesday night’s game with the Chiefs with the mindset that this was a must-win game. And true to their pedigree – the Mariners were the champions of the ITL baseball league last season – the M’s came through in the clutch, even with some key players unavailable for the game.

“Ipswich was in the same situation as us,” explained Lafata. “They were missing some guys who were core hitters. We were, too, in a game we had to win. It’s a good way to start the second half of the season after losing three straight. To get out of the slump we had going on a key night, just a few days after the Fourth, was what we needed.”

The win was indeed a must-win for the Mariners. It stopped a three-game slide, and kept Manchester-Essex in first place in the ITL at 8-3-1, just ahead of Rockport (7-3). It was necessary for the Mariners to stop the skid and have some momentum with a three-game series set to begin on Sunday with a double-header against the Townies (2:35 p.m., Evans Field in Rockport), followed by Tuesday’s tilt between the two teams at Memorial Field in Essex (5:45 p.m.)

“We always have good battles with them,” Lafata said of Rockport. “We’re so familiar with them, being from Cape Ann. We play each other tough every time. It’s always tough to play them at home, and it’s hard to get one win there [at Evans Field]. When you go in there, you hope to walk out without getting swept. Then we play them Tuesday night, and after that it’s Beverly.”

Next week will be a busy one for the Mariners. Manchester Essex has three games against Rockport to start the week, and then will face Beverly on Thursday and Friday night. The hope is that the team’s pitching, what has gotten the Mariners through to this point, will be what carries them to victory during next week’s grueling schedule.

“It’s a tough undertaking,” said Lafata. “Hopefully, we can put the team’s weight on pitching. Tonight, even though it was a 5-1 win, I thought the best thing to do was to get some guys a few innings here and there.”

The player/coach did just that. Steve Stout started and earned the win, and was replaced by Matt Hildebrandt and Ryan Marques in the final two innings of the game. All three pitchers got their innings, and Lafata is hoping it will translate into the same type of success the team saw in the win over Ipswich.