Monday, August 15, 2016

From the news...

ROWLEY — Joe Esposito had his entire team out of breath.

His teammates were panting, but also smiling after celebrating Esposito’s walk-off shot up the middle that allowed the Rowley Rams to take a 5-4 win over the Manchester Essex Mariners in game two of the ITL finals on Sunday night at Eiras Park.

The hit tied the series at 1-1 after the Mariner’s 7-3 win on Saturday.

“Just had to get something done,” said Esposito. “That’s it.”

With two outs in the bottom of the seventh, the Rams had already pushed across a run to make the score 4-3, then loaded the bases for Esposito.

His grounder skipped by second base, allowing two runs to score and sending the Rams’ bench into a frenzy.

“It felt pretty good,” said Esposito. “The guy was just throwing fastballs. I was seeing it pretty nice.”

His coach, Jeff Wood, was winded when he addressed the late-game heroics.

“Joe Esposito coming up and getting that big, big hit to end the game, you won’t find anybody that works harder than Joe,” said Wood.

The majority of the game, though, seemed as if it was the Mariner’s to win.

The four-time defending ITL champs put runners on in each of the first five innings, scoring first in the second frame, when Paul Crehan singled to lead off the inning and was later driven in by a single from Max Nesbit.

Rams starter Joe White was replaced shortly after by John Rusolillo. White worked one and two-thirds innings and had a strikeout.

The Mariners then tacked on more in the fourth thanks to RBI singles from John Wilcox and Noah Aiello to make it 3-0, then added another one in the fifth off an error to make it 4-1 at the time.

Ryan Marques was solid on the mound for the Mariners, starting the game and working five innings, yielding just two runs on seven hits while striking out one.

But the Rams chipped away.

“We were there the whole game getting guys on base,” said Esposito. “Just a matter of coming through. Not necessarily getting the job done early, leaving guys on base. But later on, when we needed it, we started getting guys on base and we were scoring.”

They got on the board in the fourth when Esposito — who had three RBIs in the game — grounded out, scoring Justin Bolla who had reached on an error earlier in the inning.

Bolla then had a RBI of his own in the fifth, singling in Curtis Putnam who also had two hits in the game.

Heading into the seventh, the Rams were in striking distance thanks to Rusolillo’s effort on the mound. The righty worked four and a third, allowing the two runs, but turned in 1-2-3 innings in the sixth and seventh, keeping his team in the game.

“He didn’t throw that many (pitches),” said Wood. “He had a lot of first-pitch pop-ups and stuff like that. He worked. He just kept throwing strikes and forced them to do something.”

Colby Ingraham had a single in the seventh to score Anthony Conte, then Bolla, Tim Cashman and Dimitri Hunt reached to set up Esposito.

The two teams meet again in game three of the series at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday at Memorial Field in Essex.

“We saw their best pitcher (Rusty Tucker) (Saturday),” said Esposito. “If we face him again, we’ll be ready... We’re here for a reason. We’re here to stay.”