Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Mariners Advance to Finals

HAMILTON-- It is a position that the Manchester Essex Mariners have gotten used to over the last decade: Playing in the Intertown Twilight Baseball League championship series.
With a 5-0 win over the Hamilton Generals in Game 2 of the best-of-three semifinal series on Monday at Patton Park, the Mariners are heading to the finals for the sixth straight year and the ninth time over the last 10 years.
The five-time defending champs were led by a dominant pitching staff against Hamilton as the Mariners outscored the Generals 9-0 in two games while Game 1 starter Rusty Tucker and Game 2 starter Marc Phinney combined to allow just three hits.
"We have been this far before but it's never easy," Mariners manager Ryan Marques said. "There are a lot of good teams in this league and we have to play our best to get to this point. Tonight it took a great team effort. Phinney was great, the defense was awesome behind him and we got timely hits."
Phinney went the distance allowing two hits in the first two innings. But the south paw faced the minimum 21 batters thanks to a first inning pickoff and a second inning double-play. The double-play was the defensive gem of the afternoon as first baseman Mike Cain snared a well hit grounder with a diving stab just behind the first base bag. He stepped on first and threw to second in plenty of time to get the tag out.
While Phinney only had one strikeout on the night, he worked both sides of the plate and kept solid contact to a minimum. The Mariners defense was also flawless behind him. After allowing a base hit to leadoff the second, Phinney retired 17 straight Generals batters to finish off the game.
"I was really pitching to contact all game," Phinney said. "I was changing speeds, changing the delivery on my fastball and I got great defense behind me. That's what I try to go out and do every game. I wasn't going to get 18 strikeouts like Rusty did (in Game 1) but I just focused on every pitch. It's nice to get the win and get into the finals."
Manchester Essex gave its starter enough runs to win before he even stepped foot on the rubber.
The Mariners were able to string together four straight hits in the top of the first to jump out to an early 2-0 lead. Cain's single plated Alex Ray, who reached on a single, with the first run of the game. Cain then came around to score from second on an Adam Philpott single.
In the fourth inning, the Mariners essentially put the game away with two more runs. After a fielding error and a Paul Crehan single, Noah Aiello came up to pinch hit with runners on second and third. He laced a base hit up the middle to score both runners and extend the Mariner's edge to 4-0.
"That was the turning point of the game," Marques said. "Both pitchers were throwing well but Noah was able to come up the bench and have a good at bat."
Philpott capped the scoring in the fifth inning when he singled in Cain to make it 5-0.
With the win, the Mariners now await the winner of the Rowley Rams and Rockport Townies series. The Rams took a 1-0 series lead on Monday night.
The ITL finals begin on Saturday at Memorial Field in Essex (4 p.m.).