The year 2019 was a memorable one for the local sports scene here on Cape Ann. With high school teams turning in unprecedented success, the year brought some incredibly memorable moments.
Earlier this week, the Gloucester Daily Times recognized the top 10 sports moments of the year, which showed just how impressive a year it was with several individual and team milestone performances. Now it's time to recognize the top 10 games of 2019, in no particular order.
Gloucester softball over Triton, Division 2 North Finals
There could have been about a half dozen games on this list from the Gloucester softball team alone in its run to the Division 2 State Finals this past spring. But if you have to pick one, the Division 2 North championship clinching win over Triton stands out above the rest.
Don't let the 14-6 final score fool you, this was as tight of a ball game as you will see. So why does this game get the nod over some of the team's other memorable performances? Because Triton forced Gloucester out of its comfort zone and the Fishermen still won.
Gloucester's game was pitching and defense this past spring, but a high powered Triton offense was not going to allow Gloucester to manufacture a run here and there and grind out a defensive win.
The Fishermen, however, were more than up for the challenge as they slugged with the sluggers, picking up clutch hit after clutch hit in a back-and-forth first seven innings, which saw the teams tied 6-6.
In extra innings, Gloucester then went to what it did best and unleashed a fury of small ball as perfectly placed bunts and smart yet aggressive baserunning saw the eventual sectional champs open up the floodgates with eight runs in the eighth inning to snatch the sectional crown from the top-seeded Vikings.
Everyone knew Gloucester was a great team before that point in the postseason, but its ability to adapt to a uniquely talented team took it to another level.
Gloucester boys hoop over Danvers in OT, Division 2 North First Round
The Gloucester boys turned in one of the best seasons in program history last winter by reaching the sectional semifinals for just the second time in program history.
On the way to the semis, Gloucester faced off against a conference rival that had upset on its mind.
Gloucester, the No. 5 seed in Division 2 North, hosted No. 12 Danvers in a rematch of a regular season game that Gloucester won by nearly 50 points. The rematch was much different.
The Falcons made the adjustments they needed to make from the first game and also had a much better night shooting the basketball. The game turned into a back and forth contest where neither team could shake the other and a lead never got beyond three possessions.
Danvers turned most of its defensive attention to Gloucester sharp shooter Ben Oliver, putting two defenders on him all night no matter where he went. That meant that someone else had to step up into a scoring role, and senior Matt Montagnino ran with the opportunity, scoring 31 points to help Gloucester force overtime.
In the extra session, Gloucester finished on a 13-2 run to advance to the quarters, where it would take down Reading to reach the semifinals.
Manchester Essex girls lax over Bromfield, Division 2 State Semis
Like Gloucester softball, Manchester Essex girls lacrosse is another team that turned in several memorable games in its run to the Division 2 State Finals. Out of all of the wins, the victory over Bromfield in the Division 2 State Semifinals takes the cake.
The Hornets actually lost to Bromfield early in the regular season last spring, but turned the tables when it mattered most.
The Hornets actually trailed, 9-6 in a fast paced first half, but went out in the second half and played on their terms. Brigid Edgerton gave Manchester Essex its first lead, 11-10, with less than 10 minutes to go. That's when the eventual victors really put their stamp on the game.
In a sport where scoring rules, Manchester Essex earned a trip to the state finals by keeping Bromfield off the scoreboard, more specifically, keeping them away from the ball.
Precision passing and a few huge saves from goalie Bella Pomeroy kept Bromfield scoreless for the final 10 minutes of the half in an 11-10 win.
Gloucester field hockey over Danvers, Division 2 North Quarterfinals
The Gloucester field hockey team matched the deepest tournament run in program history this past fall with a berth in the Division 2 North Finals. In that run, Gloucester had two straight tense wins in the quarters and semifinals, and the 2-0 win over Danvers gets the edge over the 1-0 win over Pentucket in the semis.
The Fishermen were playing their best at the right time and ran into their arch nemesis on the road in the sectional quarters. Danvers not only won the Northeastern Conference going away this season, ending Gloucester's run of two straight NEC titles, it also beat Gloucester in two head-to-head meetings without allowing a goal.
The third-seeded Falcons looked the part in many moments in the game, most notably early and late in the first half. But the Gloucester defense and goalie Mia Wheeler were up to the task as they turned away several corner chances and a penalty stroke.
Mia Salah scored in the middle of the first half and Maddie Machado scored early in the first half to put Gloucester up 2-0. After Machado's goal, the Fishermen seized the momentum and shut down the NEC champs the rest of the way for an incredibly impressive win, erasing the memory of the two regular season losses.
Rockport and ME boys soccer battle to draw in CAL showdown
First place in the CAL Baker Division was on the line in a late September showdown between the two rivals from Cape Ann. The Vikings and Hornets not only turned in an instant classic, they showed a preview of what was to come as both teams turned into legitimate Division 4 contenders.
Rockport came flying out of the gates to take a 2-0 lead on goals from Frew Rowen and Colby Kelly. Manchester Essex, however, went on to keep the Vikings at bay from there and get back into the game with a Kai Carroll goal early in the second half. Kellen Furse added the equalizer late in the second half and both teams left with a point.
This game had serious implications in the league race, as did the scoreless draw the teams played to just one week later. Manchester Essex won the CAL and finished unbeaten in league play for the first time in school history, reaching the sectional finals for the third time in the last four seasons.
Rockport, on the other hand, finished second in the CAL and ended up being a real contender in the postseason. Although Rockport lost to eventual sectional champ and state runner-up Burke in the semifinals, it gave the champs its biggest test of the entire tournament, a 2-0 game that could have gone either way.
Manchester Essex Mariners over Rowley Rams, Game 5 of the ITL Finals
The Intertown Twilight Baseball League is the oldest amateur baseball league in the country, and Game 5 of the finals may have been one of the best games in its long and storied history.
Trailing 2-0 heading into the bottom of the seventh inning, the Mariners were three outs away from dropping their third straight Game 5 of the ITL Finals. Rowley pitcher Tim Cashman had out-dueled Mariners ace Rusty Tucker, the best pitcher in the league over the better part of the decade, up until that point.
Rowley had never trailed in the game, which came one day after it won Game 4 to stay alive in the series. After a Justin Bolla solo shot late in the game, the Rams had all the momentum too.
But just like that, the Mariners battled back to tie the game on hits from Kellen Field and Mike Cain to send it to extras. Tucker grew stronger as the game went on going the full nine, he also delivered the game's biggest hit in the form of a walk-off solo homer with one down in the ninth to clinch the championship for the Mariners.
The Mariners ruled the decade in the ITL, winning seven championships, but the 2019 win was the most dramatic by a long shot.
Gloucester hockey falls to Danvers in double OT, Division 2 North First Round
The result was not what the Gloucester hockey team wanted, a heartbreaking loss in double overtime to a rival team in the state tournament. But the game was so memorable, and the play on the ice was so impressive that it still deserves a spot on the list.
The Fishermen and Falcons almost did not meet for the first time ever this winter thanks to the teams playing in opposite Divisions of the Northeastern Conference (both teams now reside in the NEC North). But it was meant to be, as one of the most storied and intense rivalries on the North Shore added another memorable chapter.
It was the Falcons that controlled the early stages of the game, taking a 2-0 lead into the first break. But the Gloucester offense exploded for five goals in the second period as clutch plays from E.J. Field and Jack Costanzo saw Gloucester go from being on the ropes to being in control and having all the momentum with a 5-3 lead after two.
Danvers, however, did not go away. Senior Rob Prentiss stepped in at goalie and did not allow the Fishermen to get a shot past him. After pulling to within one goal, the Falcons tied up the game in the most dramatic fashion on a Jared Mscisz wrist shot right off the face-off with three seconds to go.
Jack Thibodeau then ended it on a breakaway bid in the 3-on-3 double overtime frame to give the Falcons a 6-5 win.
Manchester Essex baseball over Lowell Catholic, Division 4 North Semifinals
The Hornets baseball program outscored its opponents 28-5 in its final three state tournament wins en route to the program's first state baseball championship. But the road to the title was not easy and the biggest challenges came in the first two rounds.
Manchester Essex's 4-2 win over Lowell Catholic in the Division 4 North Semifinals was the team's defining win outside of the 5-2 win over Tahanto in the Division 4 State Finals, a game that it was in control of from start to finish.
Against Lowell Catholic, the Hornets were not in control from start to finish as Lowell Catholic was a tough out and gave the eventual champs all they could handle.
Manchester Essex took an early 2-0 lead on hits from Harry Painter and Mike Quill. Although they never relinquished that lead, the Hornets survived a ton of close calls thanks to some clutch pitching.
Senior Dylan Wilson was great with runners on base in the first four innings. He then gave way to freshman Kellen Heney, who pitched out of a couple jams by making big pitches when he needed to to get his team the win.
Manchester Essex girls soccer falls to Amesbury in PK's, Division 4 North Finals
Another game that ended in defeat for the local team, but was a game for the ages.
Manchester Essex and Amesbury were once again the two best teams in Division 4 North by a wide margin, as they had been for the previous two seasons as well.
The CAL Baker champion Indians and CAL Baker runner-up Hornets engaged in a battle that was so closely contested, it had to be decided by penalty kicks. The back story is just as important as the play on the field with these two teams as there is tons of history. Amesbury beat Manchester Essex in the last two postseasons including the 2018 sectional finals, both games that could have gone either way.
In the Division 4 North Finals, Amesbury again proved to be a thorn in the Hornets' side, winning another game that could have easily gone the other way.
Mia Cromwell put the Hornets up 1-0, but Amesbury battled back to tie it, and then stopped a penalty kick late in regulation to send the game into overtime.
The two teams again battled to a stalemate in two overtime sessions before Amesbury goalie Alli Napoli came up big in the shootout to lead her team to the win.
Manchester Essex boys hoop comes back against H-W
The Manchester Essex boys won the CAL Baker last winter, and a dramatic comeback win over Hamilton-Wenham was the highlight of the regular season.
The league title was essentially on the line in the early February meeting with the winner moving into first place all alone.
Early on, it looked like it was going to be Hamilton-Wenham's night as the Hornets struggled from the field and fell behind by nearly 20-points.
Manchester Essex, however, was not playing poorly on either end of the floor, it was just a little off on its shot. But the talented Hornets got their groove back, led by the hot hand of Dane Moruzzi, in the second half, storming back to take the lead in the fourth in an eventual 49-44 victory.
The Hornets went on to hold off the Generals for the CAL Baker championship.