Monday, August 18, 2014

From the news, Newburyport, MA

August 18, 2014


Rowley lets Game 5, series slip away as Manchester Essex wins sixth ITL title in seven years

By Mac Cerullo
Sports Editor
---- — ROWLEY — They say that in order to be the best, you have to beat the best, and in the end the Rowley Rams couldn’t dethrone the champs.
The Manchester Essex Mariners beat the Rams 8-4 yesterday in a decisive Game 5 of the Intertown Twilight League championship series, scoring four runs in the seventh inning to win the team’s third straight title and its sixth in seven seasons.
The loss came after the Rams also dropped Game 4 of the series 2-1 on Saturday, setting up a winner-takes-all showdown after the Rams previously owned a 2-0 series lead.
Over the course of the game, Manchester Essex had two big innings where it did most of its damage, while Rowley spread its runs evenly over the course of the game. After falling behind in the seventh, the Rams got their first two runners on, but the team wasn’t able to maintain the rally and ultimately fell short.
Rowley head coach Jeff Wood said afterward that the result wasn’t what they were looking for, but both teams played hard and unfortunately the Rams couldn’t get the job done.
“Both teams battled back and forth,” he said. “We worked hard all season, but we came up one inning short.”
It seems almost fitting that the Rams and Mariners wound up playing to the final out given the battle the two teams have waged over the years. This year the two split their four regular season games and finished first and second in the standings, and over the past few seasons the teams have become very familiar with one another come playoff time.
In 2011, the Rams upset the three-time defending champions in the semifinals en route to their first championship in team history, and then a year later the Mariners avenged their loss by knocking the Rams out in the semifinals.
Last year the two met in the finals, and the Mariners came out on top again to win their fifth championship in six years. Finally, this year it looked as if the Rams were ready to topple the Mariners’ dynasty, as the team separated itself from the pack and finished the regular season with a 19-5 record and a 31/2-game lead over the Mariners for first place.
Both teams subsequently swept their first round playoff opponents, and then played out a series of grueling games in the championship series. The Rams won Games 1 and 2 by scores of 5-4 and 4-2 respectively, and then the Mariners responded by taking Games 3 and 4 by scores of 3-2 and 2-1.
Wood said after Game 2 that had a couple of plays gone differently, the Mariners easily could have been the ones up 2-0, and the same could easily be said about the three losses that followed. Despite the disappointing end to the season, Wood said he was proud of his players and that they should feel good about what they were able to accomplish this year.
“You couldn’t ask for any more. Everybody showed up and had a great year,” he said.