The Intertown Twilight Baseball League playoffs are set — and the league's two Cape Ann teams will be meeting in the playoffs for a third straight season.
The Manchester Essex Mariners finished the regular season in first place and will take on the two-time defending ITL champion Rockport Townies in the best-of-three semifinal series.
The two squads will open up the series Sunday at Memorial Field in Essex (5:30 p.m.). The series will shift to Evans Field in Rockport Monday (6 p.m.) and will go back to Memorial Field for Game 3 Wednesday if necessary.
The two teams met in the ITL finals in each of the last two seasons, with the Townies pulling out the championship in a five-game series win in both instances.
The Mariners and Townies have collectively owned the ITL over the last two decades, winning 19 of the last 21 league titles.
This year, however, the Mariners appear to be heavy favorites as they finished 10 games ahead of the fourth place Townies in the ITL standings. Manchester Essex also won all four meetings between the two clubs this summer, most recently with an 11-7 win last week.
In order to force a potential Game 3, the Townies will have to find a way to take a game from one of the best starting pitching staffs in the league with Rusty Tucker and Marc Phinney expected to go in Game 1 and Game 2 for the Mariners, respectively.
Rockport, however, has saved its best performances for the playoffs over the last two years and sport a well-balanced roster.
While the Townies won the last two championships, the Mariners won seven of the previous eight of the previous nine ITL championships from 2008-16. Manchester Essex has reached the finals seven seasons in a row.
The two Cape Ann teams will be playing for a spot in the ITL finals against the winner of the other semifinal series between the Hamilton Generals and Rowley Rams.
Rowley finished third place in the ITL this season, bouncing back after missing the playoffs a season ago. Hamilton, on the other hand, lost to Rockport in the semifinals in 2018, a three-game series that could have gone either way.
Game 1 of the Hamilton/Rowley series begins Monday at Patton Park in Hamilton, with Game 2 scheduled for Tuesday at Eiras Park in Rowley and Game 3 back at Patton Park Thursday if necessary.
The ITL finals are slated to start next Saturday.