Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Mariners keep pace with Generals at top of ITL standings

Mariners keep pace with Generals at top of ITL standings
By Jason Brisbois/jbrisboi@cnc.com
Posted Jul 21, 2010 @ 08:04 PM

After leading the Intertown Twilight League for most of the regular season, the Mariners now find themselves chasing another team for first place, albeit very closely.

Hamilton has gone on a tear lately, and is now just ahead of Manchester-Essex in the standings, its 12-5 record standing ahead of the Mariners’ 12-4-2 record due to head-to-head matchups going in the Generals’ favor. Tuesday’s 9-4 victory over Topsfield helped the Mariners keep pace, with hopes of overtaking the Generals before the regular season ends in a couple of weeks.

There’s plenty of reason to think Manchester-Essex can certainly keep pace with Hamilton. First of all were some of the Mariners’ performances on the field Tuesday night. Mike Gibbon started and pitched six strong innings, Ryan Marques notched a save and Rory Gentile hit a grand slam. That’s three regulars hitting on all cylinders at the right time of year.

Throw in the fact that a number of key players are now more available than they were earlier in the summer, and things are looking rosy for Manchester-Essex.

“Tonight, we had Brett Cahill, who’s now done with Legion ball,” said Manchester-Essex player/coach Bryan Lafata. “He’ll be here more often now. Nate Bertolino, the ITL MVP last year and one of the better players in the league, is back after a back injury. He hit two homeruns in his first game back.”

This also gives Lafata more roster flexibility as the postseason approaches.

“We’re starting to see more guys show up, which means we’ve had more of a bench,” explained Lafata. “It’s nice to see. With six games left, we’re going to try to get everybody back into the rhythm of playing with each other and get ready for the playoffs.”

That remaining six-game slate starts with Friday’s game against Topsfield, includes two games against struggling Rowley and a season-ending series that could have major postseason implications against Hamilton.

“Topsfield is playing good baseball, they’ve got some good young players,” said Lafata. “Earlier in the year, Topsfield was a team where you could just show up. Now, we can’t go out there thinking we could just show up and win. We’ve got to go out and play the game. We’ve got six left. Two are against Rowley, who surprisingly is struggling this year after making the playoffs as a young team last year. We’ve also got Hamilton to end the season. It always seems to come down to playoff spots and seeding. This will be a big series, I’m sure.”