The Manchester Essex baseball team appears to be peaking at the right time.
Late in the regular season it appeared as if the Hornets were going to miss out on the postseason entirely. After rattling off five wins in its final six games the Hornets got into the tournament, and they have already made some noise. With an 11-3 win over No. 8 Cristo Rey Sunday at East Boston's Air Port Field, the No. 9 Hornets (10-10) are moving on to the Division 4 North Quarter Finals where they will take on No. 1 Northeast today (4 p.m.).
Down the stretch Manchester Essex received stellar pitching as it has all season long, but the emergence of a potent offense and a stingy defense have seen the team take its game to the next level. Head coach Bob Garrett's squad was clicking in all areas during Sunday's win as the team had 11 runs on 12 hits to go along with a complete game 11 strikeout performance from starter Max Nesbit.
"Seems like the seven or eight games we have been putting it all together," Garrett said. "Pitching, defense and hitting have been great and we are going to need more of that if we want to move even further in the tournament."
The Hornets broke out to a 4-0 lead after three innings of play and really broke the game open with a six run fifth. Nesbit also helped himself out at the plate going 2-for-4 with a two RBI triple. Senior shortstop Joe Burgess, the Cape Ann League Division 3 Player of the Year, also went 2-for-4 with three RBI and a home run while Matt Corwin and Adrian Frattinni each had two hits with Corwin chipping in three RBI.
Manchester Essex now turns its attention to No. 1 Northeast Regional. The Golden Knights and Hornets have one common opponent in Rockport and both teams hold wins over the Vikings this season with the Golden Knights coming away with a 5-3 win in the teams only meeting and the Hornets taking two of three regular season games from their Cape Ann counterparts.
The Hornets will send Burgess to the mound and they have Frattini available to pitch if needed.
"That's one of the best things about this team," Garrett said. "We have three pitchers we can go to and not a lot of teams in Division 4 can say that."
Northeast received a bye through the first round and the Hornets should be facing their opponents ace this afternoon. Because of that and the way Burgess has pitched down the stretch Garrett is expecting a tight, low scoring contest.
"No matter who pitches I think we are going to se a low scoring game so there will be little margin for error," Garrett said. "We just need to keep up the formula we have used to win games late in the season, good defense, pitchers throwing strikes and we are going to have to get some clutch hitting."