Essex— Manchester Essex pitcher Max Nesbit and Ipswich pitcher Alex Amoroso put on a show any baseball aficionado would have enjoyed. In a good ole' fashioned pitcher's duel, the two showcased a bevy of off-speed pitches while holding both teams to a combined six hits.
Nesbit looked like he was going to be the tough-luck loser, but Manchester Essex rallied for the 3-1 victory in the late innings.
Amoroso, who Cape Ann sports fans recognize as a key contributor on the Rockport hockey team this winter, was in complete control heading into the fifth inning. He quickly retired the first two hitters in the bottom of the fifth and was one out away from holding the Hornets to their third straight 1-2-3 inning. With Henry Gedney batting, Amoroso threw an errant off-speed pitch that ricocheted off Gedney's foot. What looked like a harmless hit batsman with two outs and nobody on turned out to be much more critical.
The free-base allowed lead-off hitter Joe Burgess an opportunity with the tying run on-base. Down 1-0 in the count, Amoroso threw a sharp curveball that Burgess fouled-off his foot. Amoroso then came back with a fastball on the next pitch that caught too much of the plate and Burgess deposited the fast-ball 330 feet over the left-center field fence to give Manchester Essex a 2-1 lead.
Ipswich coach Gardy O'Flynn had planned to set-up Burgess with a fastball before coming back with another curveball.
"We wanted to get it in on his hands and then go back to that curveball" O'Flynn said. "We wanted a fastball in, off the plate, but it caught too much of the plate and he was able to get his arms extended."
Now that they had the lead, Nesbit and his teammates made sure they wouldn't give it back.
In the top of the 6th, Ipswich put the lead man on base on a Manchester Essex error. Louis Galanis followed with a weak ground ball to Burgess at shortstop. With Burgess charging hard, he scooped up the ball and fired a strike to first to retire Galanis. Amoroso, who was the runner on first, tried to get aggressive and take third base on Burgess' throw to first. Junior first baseman Adrian Frattini quickly fired over to third to retire Amoroso and complete the double-play and end any potential rally.
Manchester Essex tacked on an insurance run in the bottom of the sixth, when Nesbit stepped up to plate as the first batter of the inning. Nesbit helped his own cause on the mound by depositing a fastball over the double fence in left-field to push the lead to 3-1.
In the final frame, Nesbit worked around a harmless one-out walk to wrap-up the complete game pitching gem.
Manchester Essex coach Rob Garrett was pleased with his team's all-around effort.
"We played a great team game today" Garrett said. "We hit the ball when we had to, Max pitched a great again and our defense played solid. It starts with the pitching and continues with the defense and timely hitting."
In the top of the 3rd, Ipswich had a prime opportunity to bust the game open. The first three hitters reached base via two singles and a walk, highlighted by Dan O'Flynn's RBI single to right-field. With runners on first and second and nobody out, coach O'Flynn called on his team to sacrifice bunt and move the runners over. The Tigers were unable to execute the sacrifice bunt on all three strikes, which resulted in a dead-ball strike out for the first out. Another out and a walk gave Pat Curran a chance with the bases-loaded and two outs. Curran hit a hard one hopper, but Manchester Essex second baseman Mike Iwata went to his knees to gobble up the tough short-hop and minimize the Ipswich damage.
"Mike did a great job over there in a spot start" Garrett said. "Matt Corwin, our third baseman, was at the Debate National Championship in Kentucky so Mike filled in with some great defense at second base."
Coach O'Flynn thought his team could have executed better, as they had a prime opportunity with runners on and nobody out.
"With first and second and nobody out, we expect our guys to be able to put the bunt down" he said. We didn't get it done and we didn't get the timely hit, so credit Manchester Essex for playing real well today."