Gloucester and Manchester Essex’s baseball and softball teams now have a look at what their road to a sectional championship will look like as the MIAA released its tournament brackets for the two sports on Tuesday.
Both Gloucester teams earned the No. 2 seed in its respective sections and are waiting on opening round opponents, while Manchester Essex baseball is also waiting on a quarterfinal opponent after earning the No. 3 seed in its section.
The Manchester Essex softball team is the only team that has a first round opponent, date and venue. The Hornets (11-9), winners of eight of their last nine games, are the No. 17 seed in Division 3 North and will travel to No. 16 Greater Lowell (10-8) on Thursday in the preliminary round (3 p.m.) with a date against No. 1 Austin Prep awaiting the winner later this week in the first round. Manchester Essex is making its second straight appearance in the state tournament.
The other three local teams will have to play the waiting game.
No. 2 Gloucester softball earned a bye to the quarterfinal round as there are only 13 teams in the Division 2 North section. The Fishermen (17-3) will host the winner of Thursday’s first round clash between No. 7 Burlington (15-5) and No. 10 Danvers (13-7) on Monday at Gloucester High School (time TBA).
Either way, the Northeastern Conference North champs will be taking on a familiar opponent. Gloucester and Danvers met twice in the regular season with Danvers taking the first meeting, 4-1, and Gloucester taking the second, 2-0, to clinch the NEC North. Both games, however, could have gone either way.
Burlington, on the other hand, has played and eliminated Gloucester in the state tournament in each of the last three seasons. Burlington beat Gloucester last year in the sectional semifinals by a score of 15-2. The two teams also played in the sectional quarterfinals in both 2015, a 4-0 Burlington win, and the 2017 quarterfinals, an 8-3 Burlington win.
No. 3 Whittier Tech, No. 6 Dracut and No. 11 Saugus are also on Gloucester’s side of the bracket.
The Fishermen are looking to reach the semifinals for the third time in four seasons, they are a battle tested team with a record of 4-2 against teams in the Division 2 North Field.
Gloucester baseball (16-4) is the second seed in a crowded field of 21 teams in Division 3 North and does not yet have a date for its first round tilt at Nate Ross Field. The Fishermen will take on the winner of Thursday’s preliminary round game between No. 15 Wilmington (10-10) and No. 18 Dracut (9-11).
Dracut is a familiar opponent as Gloucester won an extra innings game in Dracut this past weekend, 2-1. The Middies also eliminated Gloucester in the Division 3 North Quarterfinals last season. If Gloucester can get past the opening round, it will take on the winner of Thursday’s first round game between No. 7 Newburyport and No. 10 Pentucket. Whichever team it is will be well rested heading into the quarterfinals.
The NEC North champion Fishermen, who sport a 6-0 record against teams in the bracket during the regular season, have an edge on paper in round one as Wilmington and Dracut will theoretically throw their ace on Thursday. Leaving Gloucester ace Zach Abbott to take on the No. 2 starter of the winning team in the first round. That script could be flipped, however, if Gloucester makes the quarterfinals as the Newburyport vs. Pentucket winner could throw its staff ace in back-to-back rounds thanks to what could be a decent sized layoff.
Austin Prep (19-1) got the No. 1 seed in the section while No. 3 Lynnfield resides on Gloucester’s side of the bracket.
The Cape Ann League Baker Division co-champion Manchester Essex baseball team is also waiting a date and opponent for its opening round game at Memorial Field in Essex.
The Hornets (15-5), who received a first round bye, will meet the winner of Thursday’s first round matchup between No. 6 Lowell Catholic (13-7) and No. 11 Winthrop (6-14).
If Manchester Essex takes care of business in the quarterfinals, it could set up a meeting with rival Hamilton-Wenham in the semis. The Generals are the No. 7 seed in the section and meet No. 10 St. Joseph’s Prep in the first round with the winner meeting No. 2 Snowden in the quarters. The Hornets and Generals tied for the CAL Baker championship with the Hornets winning two of three regular season meetings.
Baseball and Softball State Tournament Schedule
Division 2 North Quarterfinals: No. 2 Gloucester (17-3) vs. No. 7 Burlington (15-5) or No. 10 Danvers (13-7), Monday, June 10 at GHS (time TBA).
Division 3 North Preliminary Round: No. 17 Manchester Essex (11-9) at No. 16 Greater Lowell (10-8), Thursday at Greater Lowell (3 p.m.).
Division 2 North First Round: No. 2 Gloucester (16-4) vs. No. 15 Wilmington (10-10) or No. 18 Dracut (9-11), date and time TBA.
Division 4 North Quarterfinals: No. 3 Manchester Essex (15-5) vs. No. 6 Lowell Catholic (13-7) or No. 11 Winthrop (6-14), date and time TBA.