ESSEX— Yesterday's Intertown League clash between the Rockport Townies and the Manchester Mariners at Memorial Field may not have meant a whole lot as the stakes were not high for this mid season. But don't tell the Mariners and Townies that this game meant nothing. They will tell you that a Rockport vs. Manchester game always means something as it is the top rivalry in all of the ITL.
"Any time Manchester and Rockport play it's an important game," Mariners outfielder Joe Orlando said. "All of the players have known each other for a long time and it's a lot more fun playing against guys you know, and it doesn't hurt that we are two of the top teams in the league."
Townies manager Jeremy Spittle echoed his sentiment.
"Rockport and Manchester has always been a big rivalry," he said. "It goes back long before we played in the ITL to when we were in high school. It's just two strong teams who never quit and always come to play."
The latest showdown between the two league powerhouses on Yesterday ended with a 9-3 Mariners win. The Townies, however, were not too down as they will probably get another crack at their rivals when the stakes are at their highest.
The two teams have met in the playoffs each of the last five seasons and have combined to win nine of the last ten league championships. Manchester is the three time defending champs while Rockport won the three previous from 2005-2007.
The two rivals are now on a crash course to meet again this postseason as Manchester improves their record to 7-4-1 with the win while Rockport falls to 8-5 on the season. Both teams currently reside in the top four spots in the standings as the top four teams in the ITL qualify for the playoffs. Boxford is currently in first place.
While both teams have similar records and are sure to play a few more closely contested contests this season, they get the job done in different ways.
The Mariners rely on their pitching and defense to win games as both were on the top of their game in Yesterday's win. Starting pitcher Brandon Bell gave the Mariners a quality start going the distance allowing three runs on five hits. He also had the help behind him as Manchester did not commit an error in the field.
"Brandon has been lights out for us this year," Orlando said. "When we come to play we are tough to beat and we came to play tonight."
There has been a lot of turnover on the Mariners pitching staff this summer. Their top two starters from 2010, Mike Gibbon and Steve Stout, are no longer with the team. Still Manchester hasn't skipped a beat with Bell, Lucas DaSilva and Mike Cain handling the pitching duties.
The Mariners can also hit as they showed on Yesterday with every starter having a hit, a run scored or an RBI. Jeremy Nicastro led the way with two hits and two runs while Rory Gentile had a three run home run to center field.
Rockport, on the other hand, has relied on it's bats to win games. No matter the deficit Rockport is never out of a game as they can take any pitcher deep at any time.
"Our hitting has carried us this year," Spittle said. "Our pitching has been solid too, we had an off night tonight but we have shown how strong our pitching staff can be."
Tom Robertson powered the Townies offense with a pair of hits including a home run in the fifth inning. Brothers Brent and Brock Currier along with Dan Greel have also been strong for the Townies at the plate.
"We don't rely on one guy," Spittle said. "We have a lot of guys that contribute. (Manchester) is the same way. I think that's one of the reasons why the team's are so good and the rivalry is so strong, both teams rely on the play of the team as a whole not just a guy or two."