By Nick Curcuru
---- — It is a spot the Manchester Essex Mariners have gotten used to over the last half decade plus.
That spot is in first place in the Intertown Twilight Baseball League.
As the ITL season stretches past the midpoint, the defending champion Mariners record sits at 12-1-1 today after picking up a forfeit win Tuesday night when visiting Topsfield could not field a team.
With nine games remaining on the schedule, a scoreless tie against Rowley and a forfeit loss to Beverly on Sunday are the only blemishes on the defending champs’ record.
Manchester Essex already has a lead of four games over second-place Rowley, the 2011 champs, and Ipswich. The Mariners may have a bullseye on their backs with such a comfortable lead, but they have grown accustomed to being the team to beat having won four of the last five ITL titles while looking like the heavy favorite to make it five out of six.
Throughout the summer, Manchester Essex has been firing on all cylinders beating teams both with offense and pitching. On the season the Mariners are averaging just under six runs per game while allowing less than two. Of their 13 wins four have come by way of shutout.
On the pitching side the Mariners have been led by the one-two punch of Ryan Marques and Rusty Tucker at the top of the starting rotation.
Marques has been a work horse for the Mariners this summer compiling a 5-0 record. Tucker, on the other hand, has also been dominant as the former San Diego Padres and Boston Red Sox farmhand has allowed just a pair of runs in three starts sporting a 3-0 record.
Rory Gentile and Brandon Bell have also factored into the Mariners pitching rotation each have a win to their name this season.
Manchester Essex has been known for its pitching during its recent run of dominance. But this season they have been just as impressive at the plate. Alex Ray and Gentile have been powering the offense for the Mariners as both are hitting above .400 and are tied for the team lead in RBI. Mike Cain, Nate Bertolino and Brett Cahill are also having strong summers with averages over .300.
Sports Editor Nick Curcuru can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3444, or at email@example.com