ROWLEY — The Rowley Rams were in big trouble. After giving up a 4-3 lead on what should have been a game-ending grounder in the top of the seventh, the Rams found themselves in a bases loaded, no out jam with the defending league champion Manchester Essex Mariners threatening.
Instead of folding, the Rams fought back and turned the tables on their perennial rivals.
Rowley escaped the top of the eighth unscathed after getting a strikeout and a double play to end the inning, and then loaded the bases with no outs themselves in the bottom of the inning. Manchester got two outs to stay alive, but then C.J. Ingraham drew a walk-off walk to deliver his team a 5-4 win.
“There were a couple of opportunities to hang our heads and walk away from it, but not tonight,” said Rowley coach Jeff Wood. “I thought everyone in the lineup worked hard at the plate and we made the pitchers work.”
Rowley took an early lead on a Justin Bolla RBI single in the bottom of the first, but Manchester quickly tied it on an error at first in the top of the second.
The Mariners then took a 3-1 lead in the top of the fifth on a two-run double by Rory Gentile, but the Rams responded by batting around in the bottom of the frame, benefitting from three Manchester errors along with an RBI single by Tim Cashman to pull ahead 4-3.
The pace slowed significantly from there as both teams buckled down in the final innings. Manchester got runners on the corners in the sixth but couldn’t get the tying run home.
Rowley then had a chance to extend its lead in the sixth, but Manchester catcher E.J. Field was able to pick off two Rams baserunners to end any chance of a rally.
Needing a run to tie the game, Manchester loaded the bases with one out on two walks and a hit by pitch. Rowley was able to get a flyout to center for the second out, but Rowley allowed the tying run to score after going for a forceout on a close play at second. The Rams got a strikeout to end the inning, and Manchester quickly sent the Rams down in the bottom of the seventh to force extra innings.
Manchester immediately threatened in the top of the eight, loading the bases with no outs, but the Rams were somehow able to escape unscathed after pitcher Joey Martin came into the game on short rest to get a strikeout and then force a double play to keep it tied at 4-4.
Then, with darkness descending in the bottom of the eighth, Rowley loaded the bases with walks by Joe White and Joe Esposito and a successful bunt by Dmitri Hunt. Ingraham walked two batters later to send the Rams home winners.
“Anytime we play these guys it always seems to come right down to the wire, and it’s all about execution,” Wood said. “We failed to execute, we should have won the game in regulation, but we didn’t hang our heads, got just enough done and got the win.”
Rowley and Manchester are both now 5-3 on the season, with each team a half game back of the Rockport Townies (5-2) in the Intertown Twilight League standings.