Tuesday, August 8, 2017

On To The Postseason

"On to the Postseason" 

Mariners and Townies gearing up for ITL playoffs

The Intertown Twilight Baseball League playoffs begin this weekend, and once again both Cape Ann teams will be fighting for the league championship.

The five time defending ITL champion Manchester Essex Mariners and the Rockport Townies sit on different sides of the bracket and can make it an all Cape Ann championship series with semifinal series wins.

The Mariners once again earned the No. 1 seed in the playoffs and home field advantage throughout the playoffs. They will take on the fourth seeded Hamilton Generals with the best-of-three series beginning on Sunday at Memorial Field in Essex (5:30 p.m.). Game 2 will be played on Monday at Patton Park in Hamilton (5:30 p.m.) with Game 3 taking place back at Memorial Field on Wednesday if necessary (5:30 p.m.).

The Townies are the No. 3 seed in the playoffs and will take on the Rowley Rams in the semifinal round for the third year in a row.

The two teams will open up the semifinal final round on Monday at Eiras Park in Rowley (5:30 p.m.). The series shifts to Evans Field in Rockport for Game 2 on Tuesday (5:30 p.m.), and the teams will play Game 3 at Eiras Park on Thursday if necessary (5:30 p.m.).

The Mariners, who finished up the regular season with a record of 18-5-1, are searching for their sixth straight ITL title and sixth straight appearance in the league championship series.
While the Generals finished up the regular season right at the .500 mark at 12-12, the Mariners will not be taking the No. 4 seed lightly. In fact, Hamilton clinched the league's final playoff berth with a walk-off win over the Mariners on Thursday night.

"Hamilton has some veteran pitching and a scrappy lineup," Manager Ryan Marques said. "They have the ability to steal bases and the top of the lineup can hit the ball well. The key for us is to play clean defense, have productive at bats and continue to get great pitching."

Although the Mariners are as balanced as can be, a dominant pitching staff has led the team into the postseason this summer as their three top starting pitchers all sport an ERA under two.
Rusty Tucker leads the way at the top of the rotation with a 7-0 record and a 0.17 ERA in 42 innings pitched this season. Peter Clark has been a work horse this year sporting a record of 5-2 with a 1.34 ERA in 47 innings while Marc Phinney has been stellar in his first season with the Mariners with a 1.62 ERA in 32 innings pitched.

"Our pitching staff has been rock solid and they can shut teams down," Marques said.
The Mariners can also hit the ball with Caulin Rogers, Alex Ray, Mike Cain, Rory Gentile, Noah Aiello, Ian Buckley and Max Nesbit all hitting above .300 on the season.

On the other side of the bracket, the Rockport Townies are hoping the third time is the charm. The Townies, who went into Friday night's season finale against Topsfield with a record of 13-8-2, were eliminated by the Rams in the semifinal round in 2015 and 2016. Both series were highly competitive and the Townies had chances to turn the tides.

"Rowley is a well coached team that brings the experience of being in the finals the last few seasons," Townies manager Jay Pallazola said. "They knocked us out in the semifinals in the last two years and having home field advantage doesn't hurt. They are a very productive team in terms of getting on base and scoring runs."

The Townies beat the Rams twice in four regular season meetings and they have been playing their best baseball at the right time. A slow start saw the Townies at 5-8-1 late last month. But they have since been on a tear going 8-0-1 over the last nine games. That includes two wins over both the Rams and the Mariners.

Rockport is the hottest team in the league right now and the offense has led the turnaround. While the pitching staff, led by Derek Osmond, Alex Webb, Mackenzie Quinn and Shawn Hull, has been strong all season, the offense has been very productive over the last month.

"Our bats came to life at the perfect time," Pallazola said. "We struggled through the first half of the schedule getting timely hits and putting runs on the board. I like our chances right now because we have a bunch of guys that have each other's backs and it shows on the field."
Pallazola was also quick to credit his team's depth, which could really come into play in the postseason.

"I can put in anyone off the bench and know they're going to contribute," he said. "To make a run at the title we are going to have to play error free in the field, stay aggressive at the plate and continue to score runs. We've been on a great run as of late and our guys are confident."

ITL Semifinal Playoff Schedule

No. 4 Hamilton at No. 1 Manchester Essex (5:30 p.m.)
No. 1 Manchester Essex at No. 4 Hamilton (5:30 p.m.)
No. 2 Rockport at No. 3 Rowley (5:30 p.m.)
No. 3 Rowley at No. 2 Rockport (5:30 p.m.)
No. 4 Hamilton at No. 1 Manchester Essex if necessary (5:30 p.m.)
No. 2 Rockport at No. 3 Rowley if necessary (5:30 p.m.)