Saturday, July 3, 2010

Pitching staff buoys Townies, Mariners in first half of the ITL season

Pitching staff buoys Townies, Mariners in first half of the ITL season
By Jason Brisbois/
Cape Ann Beacon
Posted Jun 30, 2010

At the start of the season, the one thing Townies player/coach Jeremy Spittle was primarily concerned with was his team’s pitching. With two key pitchers from 2009 not returning, and Brent Currier and Derek Osmond attempting to work themselves back into the grind of the league, the starting pitching situation was anything but settled.

Thankfully, after a 2-2 stretch that has the team improving to 4-3, things are looking up for the pitching staff and the Townies as a unit.

“I’ve been pleased with our pitching so far, at least our starting pitching,” said Spittle. “We’ve had some good performances out of people, so that’s been helping us. I wasn’t sure what we were going to have, but so far, so good.”

Matt Sharon has been a revelation in the early part of the season, going 2-0 as a starter and pitching complete games both times. Derek Osmond has yet to pick up a win, but has looked good in two starts despite the final results.

“Matt Sharon has been workmanlike, giving us really good innings,” explained Spittle. “Derek Osmond had two tough losses. He starts off a little slow, but both times he’s gotten into a groove and kept us in the game. In the 6-3 loss to Rowley, he pitched well. When he lost to Ipswich, 5-3, I have to give him credit; he struggled early, but settled down and gave us a chance to win. We just didn’t cash in on our opportunities.”

And that’s been the one thing plaguing the Townies so far. Rockport’s entry into the Intertown Twilight League has had trouble putting the bat to the baseball.

“I think offensively, we’re still trying to find ourselves,” said Spittle. “Some guys are hitting, and some guys aren’t. There’ve been some opportunities where we’ve had chances to get into a game, or take a lead in a game, and in our last two losses, that’s been the case. We haven’t had the big hitting we need.”

The story is very much the same for the league-leading Mariners across town. The Manchester/Essex ITL franchise is in first place with a 6-2-1 record, with the pitching cited as the primary reason the M’s are at the head of the pack right now.

“Our pitchers are doing pretty well,” explained Manchester Essex player/coach Bryan Lafata. “They’ve made just a few mistakes, but the other team is making them pay. [Starting pitchers] Mike Gibbon, Steve Stout and Brandon Bell, their ERA’s are all under two. They’re doing real well. The defense is playing pretty good. But we’re hitting .280 as a team, and no one is hitting really consistently.”

The offense has shown up in more than spurts this season for the Mariners. Charlie Choate had a 4-for-4 night recently; Mike Cain hit two grand slams in one game earlier this season. But it’s once again a matter of getting more consistent with the bat for the Manchester Essex offense.

“Some of the guys are now getting a little older, they’re a couple of years out of college, and now they have to get used to not hitting every single day,” explained Lafata. “Some guys have to hit a little more. They have to adjust their approaches.”

For the Townies, the hope is that the upcoming deluge of games that always seems to rear its head in July – Spittle estimates there are 13 games on tap before the month ends – could help the Rockport offense find its rhythm. That’s exactly the formula the Townies used in 2009 to get to the ITL championship series.

“In the two wins we’ve had, we had that one or two big innings with those hits,” said Spittle. “Our offense has been a little inconsistent, but I think it will come around since we’re approaching July. I’m hoping once we get into a rhythm, that timely hitting will come around and we’ll find consistency.”

There’s also the matter of St. Peter’s Fiesta interrupting the schedule last weekend, and Independence Day falling on the upcoming weekend. It can throw a team off, but Spittle claims his team is used to it at this point.

“It throws a little bit of a kink in there, but it is what it is,” he explained. “We’ve been dealing with it the last couple of years. We’re fortunate that the Fourth is actually on a Sunday, because we get to play Thursday and Friday, and then next Thursday and a doubleheader with Manchester the day after that. If we can win three or four of those, then we’re sitting all right.”