By Nick Curcuru Sports Editor | Posted: Sunday, August 16, 2015 6:45 pm
JIM VAIKNORAS/Staff photo Manchester's Caulin Rogers slides under the tag of Rowley's CJ Ingraham during their game Saturday at Eiras Field in Rowley.
ROWLEY — Rowley knew it needed to be better than Manchester Essex’s Rusty Tucker in Saturday’s Intertown Twilight League playoffs if the Rams were going to force a fifth and final game in the championship series.
Unfortunately for coach Jeff Wood’s club, it doesn’t get better than perfect.
Tucker retired every batter he faced and the Mariners walked away with a 6-0 win and the ITL crown in a game that was cut short due to heavy rain, thunder and lightning. Manchester Essex secured its fourth straight league championship and seventh in eight years.
“Obviously we didn’t get a lot going off of him (Tucker), but you still would like to finish the game and see where things would have shaken out,” said Wood. “But it wasn’t in the cards weather-wise. If this rain comes half an hour earlier, the game’s not official and we have to play it again. It’s just the way things worked out.”
Saturday’s win gave the Mariners their fourth consecutive league championship and the seventh in eight years..
“It’s awesome. We try hard all year and to put it together and win the title is a lot of fun,” Mariners manager Ryan Marques said.
The Rams actually hit Tucker pretty well in a loss in game two in which the team was able to score three runs. But Saturday was a different story as Tucker got the better of all 15 batters he faced, including nine strikeouts. His best inning was his last, as Tucker whiffed all three Rams’ hitters in the bottom of the fifth as the rain started to fall.
“He came ready to play,” Marques said of Tucker. “He did a tremendous job. Rusty came with that attitude that no one was beating him today.”
Rowley starter Tim Moore held the Mariners scoreless for the first two innings, but the visitors broke things open in the top of the third inning thanks to the big bat of Mike Cain, who launched a three-run homer over the left field fence. Later in the inning, Sam Schautt knocked in Tucker with a two-out RBI single up the middle to make it 4-0 Manchester Essex.
Cain’s power put the Mariners in the lead and then his selflessness added to the cushion.
In the top of the fourth inning, Cain laid down an RBI sacrifice bunt to put the visitors ahead 5-0 before Alex Ray’s RBI single in the top of the fifth made it 6-0.
“He’s huge for us,” Marques said of Cain. “He’s a team leader, he hits home runs and he came up huge for us there.”
The Rams, meanwhile, never got their offense going, as Tucker dominated from start to finish.
“He (Tucker) throws strikes and he throws hard. You have to keep getting your swings at him,” said Wood. “There were a lot of solid at-bats today where it’s hard to tell from the spectator’s point of view, but as a coach watching the guys had a lot of foul balls straight back. They were right on it, but squaring them up is another deal all together. The timing was there; we just had trouble squaring it up.”
Wood remained positive about the season overall as the Rams put together a very strong summer despite being a little short on arms due to a pair of costly pitching injuries.
“We came into this year wanting to play championship baseball and we did that. The fact of the matter is from about the Fourth of July until now we had Tim Moore, Joe White, Joe Martin and Jeff Moore on the pitching staff and that’s thin,” said Wood. “Those four guys really just did everything we asked to get us to this point. At the end of the day that’s a lot to ask of four guys.
“I thought the season — I would deem it a success. We played it and we were competitive, but things just didn’t fall our way.”
Posted: Sunday, August 16, 2015 9:00 pm
The Manchester Essex Mariners made history with another ITL title.
The Manchester Essex Mariner’s 2015 Intertown Twilight Baseball League title was truly historic as the Mariners continue to re-write the league record books.
The longest running amateur baseball league in the United States, the ITL has been around since 1929 and with Saturday’s win over the Rowley Rams, the Mariners become the first team in league history to win seven championships in eight seasons according to the league’s website.
The Mariners also become the first team since the Rockport Townies from 1983-86 to win four straight ITL titles and the third team in league history to win four straight championship. The Topsfield Torries won four straight ITL crowns from 1976-79.
The 2015 championship is the third straight championship series where the Mariners topped Rowley. In 2011 it was the Rams that stopped the Mariners first attempt at a four-peat besting them in the semifinals en route to the championship.
Over the last 18 seasons only two non Cape Ann teams have won the ITL. The Rowley Rams won the title in 2011 and the Ipswich Chiefs in 2003. Since the 1998 seasons, the Mariners have won 10 ITL championships and the Rockport Townies have won six.
Founded in 1929, The Intertown Twilight League is the oldest active amateur baseball league in the country, and is recognized by the National Baseball Hall of Fame as such. The league consists of teams from Beverly, Hamilton, Ipswich, Manchester, Rockport, Rowley, & Topsfield to make up the league. Most of the players are college or former college/high school players; a few have had professional experience. Please join us this and every summer for some of the best baseball around! We hope to see you there!