Friday, August 17, 2012

Manchester-Essex ready to face Ipswich Chiefs in Intertown Twilight League baseball final

One Cape Ann baseball team is right where it feels comfortable: In the championship.
The other is in unfamiliar territory: At home.
Manchester-Essex returned to the Intertown League baseball finals after missing last year’s and not having the chance to make it four titles in a row.
Rockport, meanwhile, is done for the season, finishing with a 9-15 record and missing the four-team playoffs for the first time in at least 14 seasons. That many seasons ago, current player-manager Jeremy Spittle began his career, and he and Rockport haven’t missed the playoffs since.
But this time, it’s been all Manchester-Essex, the first-place regular-season finishers who swept Rowley, the defending champs that knocked them out one year ago, in this week’s best-of-three series.
Now, they have a championship date with Ipswich, the third-place finishers who ousted Beverly in another sweep. The best of five final series starts Saturday, Aug. 11, in Essex at 2 p.m. and continues Sunday, Aug. 12, in Ipswich (2 p.m.) and Wednesday, Aug. 15, back in Essex (5:30 p.m.).
"Timely hitting, pitching and defense – which has what it’s been all year for us," said Manchester-Essex player/manager Bryan Lafata, when asked about his team’s success in the playoffs first round.
The duo performing the lights-out pitching work is righty Ryan Marques and lefty Rusty Tucker. Marques held on strong in the last inning of his complete-game performance in Game 1 in Essex, leaving the tying run on second in a 4-3 win.
Tucker, the former Major League draft pick, struck out 13 and allowed one hit in his complete-game effort in the series-clinching, 2-0 Game 2 win in Rowley.
"Ryan pitched well, and Rusty was on," said Lafata, a catcher.
Meanwhile, Nate Bertolino (key homer in Game 1) and Alex Ray (key hits in Game 2) provided sparks on offense. Lafata would like to see the Mariners take better advantage of runners on base.
But either way, they’re in the finals again against what Lafata calls a worthy foe.
"Ipswich is another good, young team with a couple of veterans," he said. "They have solid pitching, and it should be an interesting series. They’ve beaten us on a walk-off double, and we’ve had some other nail biters with them."
Rockport’s Spittle called this season "frustrating for us, collectively."

Read more: Manchester-Essex ready to face Ipswich Chiefs in Intertown Twilight League baseball final - Gloucester, MA - Wicked Local Gloucester