When it comes to the first round of the MIAA state baseball tournaments, the schedule makers were kind to the baseball teams on Cape Ann. Gloucester, Rockport and Manchester Essex all received favorable matchups despite the fact that all three teams have fairly low seeds in each of its respective state tournament fields.
In Division 2 North No. 13 Gloucester (10-10) will travel to No. 4 Boston English (13-5) this afternoon in a first round tilt (4:00 p.m.). In Division 4 North No. 9 Manchester Essex (9-10) will travel to Boston to play No. 8 Cristo Rey (9-9) on Saturday (4:00 p.m.) while No. 10 Rockport (7-11) travels to Malden to take on No. 7 Mystic Valley at Malden Catholic High School Saturday night (7:00 p.m.).
All three Cape Ann teams may have the lower seed, but all three are the favorites to come away with a first round win.
In Division 2 North the Fishermen are hoping to not only stop a four game losing skid, but win a state tournament game for the fourth straight year. Since 2009 Gloucester has won eight postseason games and has been to at least the sectional semi finals in each of those seasons.
Gloucester's draw in 2012 looks eerily similar to it's draw in 2011, when a 10-10 Gloucester team won two tournament games before falling to North Andover in the Division 2 North Semi's.
Just like 2011 Gloucester is the No. 13 seed and will be playing a No. 4 seed that is not as strong as several teams below it. While Boston English is certainly no push over, the Fishermen are lucky to draw the Boston City League Champions instead of No. 5 Beverly, No. 6 Lynn Classical or No. 3 Reading, all of whom are also playing teams with 10-10 records.
If the Fishermen get past Boston English they will play the winner of No. 5 Beverly and No. 12 Belmont in the quarter finals. Gloucester topped Beverly in the quarter finals last year. If that weren't enough North Andover is also a possible opponent if Gloucester reaches the semi's.
The Fishermen will send Jason Vizena to the mound today against Boston English and he has been the team's staff ace all season long. The key for Gloucester, however, is in the field as the Fishermen have struggled defensively recently. They will need to turn that around if they want to win a tournament game for the fourth straight year.
In Division 4 North Manchester Essex appears to be on the easier side of the bracket and a deep tournament run is not out of the question. While the Hornets enter the tournament with a less than stellar 9-10 record, there are no teams in the field more battle tested then the Hornets and fellow Cape Ann League Division 3 rivals Rockport and Georgetown. The last two Division 4 North champions have come from CAL Division 3 as Georgetown won in 2010 and 2011. Just last year the Royals took home the sectional crown with just a 5-15 regular season record.
A win for the Hornets over Cristo Rey and they will earn a shot at No. 1 seed Northeast, another team with a great record (15-5) against less than stellar competition.
Manchester Essex brings a balanced squad into the tournament, it's one-two punch starting pitching punch of Max Nesbit and Joe Burgess may be the best in the Division as runs will be tough to come by against Manchester Essex this postseason.
On the other side of the bracket lied No. 10 Rockport, who has to be considered the favorite against No. 7 Mystic Valley. The Vikings will send Tucker Meredith to the mound on Saturday and the junior right hander has picked up six of the team's seven wins on the season.
A win for Rockport over Mystic Valley will set up a rematch of last year's first round tilt with Matignon, who upset Rockport. Matignon has a stronger team in 2012 and is one of if not the favorite in the section.
The key to a big tournament run for the Vikings is their offense. Late in the season Rockport has struggled to put runs on the board and has especially struggled with runners in scoring position. If the Vikings sure up the offense they are just as dangerous as anybody in Division 4 North.