Monday, August 30, 2010

Townies earn trip to ITL championship, Mariners one win away

Townies earn trip to ITL championship, Mariners one win away
By Jason Brisbois/
Posted Aug 11, 2010 @ 07:30 PM

At the start of the week, it was a given that one of Cape Ann’s ITL teams would be back for the Intertown Twilight League’s championship series. By mid-week, the other local team was hoping to do the same.

Both the Rockport and Manchester Essex entries into the Intertown Twilight League were hoping to return to the finals and replicate the Cape-Ann-only matchup from the 2009 ITL baseball championship series. Manchester needed one more win as of mid-week, while the Townies were able to sweep Rowley with a dramatic finish in game two on Tuesday night.

Down 7-3 in the seventh inning, the Townies erupted for six runs in the final stanza to rally and win the game, 9-7. Brock Currier hit the game-winning, walk-off homerun that clinched the game and sent Rockport to the finals for the second year in a row.

“I’ve got to give our guys credit, we were able to work their starter and make him throw a lot of pitches,” said Townies player/coach Jeremy Spittle. “In the seventh, they brought out a lefty, and we took the approach of one pitch at a time, and it worked in our favor. We didn’t draw it up this way, but we’ll certainly take it.”

The drama and importance of the victory was not lost on the Townies.

“It was very reminiscent of 2007, our game three win over Hamilton,” explained Spittle, referring to the walk-off win over the Generals that gave Rockport its third ITL title in three years. “It was almost the same setup. We scored most of our runs with two outs, and we scored runs with two outs in the bottom of the seventh.”

The team will take advantage of the break provided with a four-day respite. The finals begin at 4 p.m. on Saturday. Should Hamilton win, Rockport would host game one; if the Mariners win the series, game one would be at Memorial Field in Essex.

“We’re going to take it one game at a time, and I think rest is the key,” said Spittle. “Getting a couple of days off is key; with no game on Thursday, we have four days in the middle, and that certainly helps. The biggest thing is that guys are fired up after that win, and we’re certainly looking forward to the finals.”

The Townies took game one of their series, defeating Rowley, 9-6, on Monday night. Down by a 3-0 score in the bottom of the third, Rockport battled back with a seven-run fourth inning that all but put the game away and stole momentum away from the Rams. Brent Currier had the highlight of this huge inning, knocking out a three-run homer.

While the Townie offense did a number on previously undefeated Rams’ pitcher Nick Liguori, Rockport starter Derek Osmond was solid on the mound for Rockport, allowing seven hits and three walks while striking out seven over seven innings.

“Derek Osmond pitched the whole game for us, and he pitched well,” said Townies player/coach Jeremy Spittle. “He quieted them down when he needed to, and we gave him two handfuls of good at-bats. We got to a pitcher that normally has been historically good against us.”

Osmond helped his own cause with a 3-for-5 performance at the plate, while Brock Currier was 2-for-5.

“We had a couple of guys step up,” said Spittle. “Top to bottom, it was a good team effort.”

Manchester Essex scored an 8-4 victory over Hamilton on Sunday night to take the first game of the best-of-three series against the Generals, but Hamilton struck back just one day later to tie things up with a 14-6 victory. The winner of the Aug. 11 rubber match game at Memorial Field heads to the Intertown Twilight League’s championship series, which begins on Saturday. If the Mariners get in, they will be able to defend their title against the winner of the Rockport/Rowley series. A loss, and they’re out.

Steve Stout earned the victory, pitching a complete game in Sunday’s 8-4 win over the Generals. Stout allowed 10 hits and three walks while striking out one. The Manchester Essex offense, meanwhile, was able to get to Hamilton ace Judd Funchion, and padded their lead thanks to Generals errors.

Hamilton took a 1-0 lead in the top of the third thanks to Mark Provost’s RBI double, but Manchester Essex put forth a resounding answer with five runs of their own in the bottom of the same inning. Mark Ruggiero’s bases-loaded double was the key hit, driving in three runs and giving the Mariners the lead for good at 5-4. Rory Gentile, Mike MacFarland and Nate Bertolino all had key hits in the game, which the Mariners iced with three runs scored off of errors in the fifth inning.

“Steve Stout was huge pitching a complete game for us,” said Manchester Essex player/coach, Bryan Lafata. “He kept them off balance, and our defense made all the plays. He kept the ball down and was ahead in the count, and that makes it easier on the defense. We had timely hitting, hit the ball hard on the ground and found some holes, which you’ve got to do. It was a good game, with good pitching and defense for us.”

The Generals struck back a day later with a 14-6 win in Hamilton. Jeff Jensen was the winning pitcher for the Generals, and Hamilton hit six homeruns in the game to tie the ITL series at 1-1.

The Mariners were out of this one early, falling behind 9-2 by the second inning. Highlights for the defending champs included big days from Matt Cain (3 hits, 2 RBIs, homerun) and MacFarland (2 RBIs).

“Pretty much, we’ve got to leave game two in the past,” said Lafata. “It was one of those games where we didn’t get much out of it. They came out swinging the bats very good, and they made us pay. Our pitchers left a couple of balls up, and they didn’t miss. One thing we need to take out of this is that we need to keep the ball down, and have our defense make plays, the way we’ve always done it.”