Friday, August 6, 2010

Townies, Mariners clinch ITL playoff berths

"Townies, Mariners clinch ITL playoff berths"
By Jason Brisbois/
GateHouse News Service
Posted Aug 04, 2010 @ 07:50 PM
Cape Ann —

At the start of the week, the Intertown Twilight League’s playoff field of four had already been decided. What hadn’t been decided is just where everyone in that four-team group will end up when the dust has settled.

With Manchester Essex topping Topsfield on Monday night, and Rockport knocking off the Tories in the second game of a doubleheader on Sunday, both the Mariners and Townies are guaranteed a spot in the ITL playoffs. Hamilton and Rowley are also in. Manchester Essex and Hamilton were set to play a key, season-ending series against each other on Aug. 3 and 5, with the series determining who ends up with first place in the regular season, and the corresponding top seed in the playoffs.

Additionally, Rockport will attempt to improve its lot Friday night in Topsfield, while Rowley will do the same against Beverly on the same night. Rockport and Rowley could finish anywhere from second- to fourth-place. Playoffs are set to begin this weekend, with the first and fourth seed facing off on Sunday, with the rest of the best-of-three-game series played on Monday and Wednesday, and the second and third seeds playing Monday, Tuesday and, if necessary, Thursday.

The Townies, for their part, hope the team that showed up in the second game of Sunday’s doubleheader, a 7-4 victory, is the one that shows up Friday night. The one that let a 6-3 lead slip away into a 7-6 defeat in game one can stay home, as far as player/coach Jeremy Spittle is concerned.

“We were up, 6-4, until the top of the sixth inning; then things fell apart,” said Spittle. “In the second one, we were down, 3-0, after the first inning, and [pitcher] Brent Currier settled down into a nice groove. We made it back and scored five runs in the fifth to get the lead for good, and that was the win that clinched it for us. We had a sense of urgency in that game that we didn’t have in the first game.”

Spittle hopes his team can find the consistency that the Townies have been lacking in 2010, first against the Tories on Friday, and next week once the playoffs begin.

“From a team standpoint, I think this has been a pretty challenging year for us,” said Spittle. “We’ve had stretches where we play pretty good baseball, and we have some games where we’re playing with a sense of urgency, and playing good baseball in all three facets. In other games, we’re not. Consistency has been an issue. That came into play [Sunday]. We were cruising along, but I feel that at times we might get a little complacent, and that came back to bite us. When we’re playing our best baseball, we can match up with anyone.”

There can be no complacency in the playoffs, and especially in Friday’s key game against Topsfield. Earning a win could be crucial to Rockport’s placement in the playoffs, and the Tories are a much-improved team from the one that started the regular season.

“They’re certainly a different team than they were the last time we played them in June,” said Spittle. “They’ve got some good, young players and they present some challenges. I’ve got a feeling they’ll be a good, young up-and-coming team if they get more pitching.”