Monday, August 30, 2010

Townies vs. Mariners just as entertaining for second year in a row

Townies vs. Mariners just as entertaining for second year in a row
By Jason Brisbois/
Posted Aug 17, 2010 @ 08:50 PM

The first game of the series was a low-scoring pitchers’ duel, punctuated by strong defense and manufactured runs. The second game featured offensive fireworks and 14 total runs scored between two teams.

Welcome back, ladies and gentlemen, to Townies vs. Mariners for the Intertown Twilight League crown.

It’s the second year in a row that both of Cape Ann’s entries into the oldest amateur baseball league in the country have faced each other in the finals. And the intensity, spontaneity and entertainment value that comes along when Manchester Essex faces off with Rockport in the ITL is as palpable as it was one year ago.

“This seems like a tighter series,” said Townies player/coach Jeremy Spittle after the best-of-five series was knotted at 1-1 over the weekend. “I don’t know why I feel that way. I think [Sunday’s game, a 10-4 Townies victory) was closer than the score indicated. I think game three [scheduled for Aug. 18] will be very pivotal, just like last year. The team that wins will have momentum. The team that loses will have a couple of days to think about it.”

“I think the intensity level is notched up a bit from last year,” continued Spittle. “I feel like this series has been played tighter, with some very intense games.”

Of course, this is simply a standard for two teams that know each other as well as the Townies and Mariners do. Both player/coaches have been at this for a while, and both are aware of the tradition involved not only with their own team, but the opposition as well.

“Of course, there’s an advantage and a disadvantage to knowing each other so well,” said Spittle. “The advantage being you already know your opponent, you know what their so-called weaknesses and strengths are. At the same time, it’s a disadvantage because if something the other team does well plays into your weakness, it doesn’t serve you as well.”

While Manchester Essex coach Bryan Lafata can’t argue against the intensity of the series in 2010, he sees one major difference that the Mariners haven’t seen in the past.

“One thing that’s different is you look at the Rockport lineup, and there are a lot of new faces,” said Lafata. “There are some veterans that we’re used to seeing, like the Currier brother (Brock and Brent) and Danny Greel, but they’ve got a lot of young guys. We’ve also got young guys who’ve had successful high school seasons, guys who haven’t been seen a lot in this league. Even though they’re young, they’ve been there, guys like Brett Cahill and Alex Ray. Even pitching-wise, [the Townies] threw Sean Hull at us, the ace from Gloucester High this year, and he’s new to this series.”

And while there are a lot of familiar faces from last year’s title-winning team on the Mariners’ side, they are missing a key piece or two for this all-important series.

“Our team, we’ve got pretty much the same lineup, and the fact that everyone is now showing up gives us a deeper lineup,” explained Lafata. “We’ve got our core of veterans like Nate Bertolino and Whit Graham who last year helped us win the title. But the fact that Mike Gibbon is hurt hurts our cause. I don’t think he’ll pitch in the finals. Mike’s generally an impact pitcher; every time he goes to the mound, he gives you confidence that you can win. You know you won’t have to score too many runs to win games.”

Despite the presence of new faces, Spittle and Co. know what they’re up against in this series, and they know it well.

“Manchester is the champion, and we’ve got to beat them if we want to win it all,” said Spittle. “Now that’s definitely the case now that we’re in the finals. It’s a challenge, they’re a very good team and Bryan is a very, very good coach.”