IPSWICH — The Manchester Essex Mariners have officially made the 2012 Intertown Twilight Baseball League championship a series.
After falling into a 1-0 hole with a 2-1 loss to Ipswich in game 1 of the series, the Mariners bounced back on Sunday at Bialek Park with an 8-0 win behind a three hit shutout, 19 strikeout performance from starting pitcher Rusty Tucker, to even the series at 1-1.
The best of five series has now turned into a de facto best of three series with game 3 set to go off on Wednesday at Memorial Field in Essex (5:45 p.m.).
“When Rusty’s on the mound we know we are in a good spot to win if we support him,” said Mariners infielder Nate Bertolino, who had a key two RBI double in the win. “We didn’t have to make to many plays in the field but we got some timely hitting.”
The secret to Tucker’s success on Sunday was simple. The former Red Sox and Padres farm hand overpowered the Chiefs with an overpowering fast ball. The south paw used his breaking ball sparingly because his fastball was so effective as he struck out the first 11 batters he faced and 14 of the first 15.
Ipswich catcher Ryan Montecalvo got the games first hit off of Tucker in the fourth inning, a line drive to center field for a single. The first out recorded by Tucker that was not a strikeout came with one out in the fifth inning, and it was the defensive play of the game as Caulin Rogers fielded a grounder deep in the hole between short stop and third base and delivered the throw in time for the out.
The Mariners got on the board in the top of the third inning by stringing together three straight hits. After Rory Gentile (2 hits) doubled and Rogers (3 hits) singled, Bertolino doubled down the right field line plating them both. Bertolino came around to score four batters later on a Tucker single. Catcher Pete L’Italien (2 hits), who singled, later came in to score on a wild pitch giving the Mariners four runs in what turned out to be the decisive inning.
Prior to the third Ipswich starter Mark O’Flynn was looking good working around a pair of first inning errors and sitting down the Mariners at ease over the first two innings.
“(O’Flynn) was looking very good over the first two innings,” Bertolino said. “I was surprised they took him out but they’re probably saving him. We were able to string together a bunch of hits in the third and bring some runs home and that was enough with the way Rusty was pitching.”
The Mariners added two more runs in the sixth and seventh innings to bring the lead to 8-0.
In Saturday’s game 1 the Mariners squandered a strong start on the hill from Ryan Marques falling 2-1. Kevin Michael picked up the win for Ipswich going the distance for the victory.
“Ipswich was the better team in game 1,” Bertolino said. “They made more plays than we did. We wasted a good start from Marquesy by not stringing together hits and making a couple mental mistakes.”
The series now moves on to an all important game 3 on Wednesday where the winner will be one win away from a championship. The Mariners will send either Marques or Mike Cain to the hill.