ESSEX — Heading into the fifth inning of yesterday afternoon’s Intertown Twilight Baseball League semifinal tilt between the first place Manchester Essex Mariners and fourth seeded Ipswich Chiefs, it appeared that Ipswich was well on its way to a Game 1 victory.
The Chiefs held a six-run lead over the Mariners while receiving offensive production up and down the lineup and solid pitching from starter Greg Doucette.
But it all unraveled from there.
Over its final two offensive innings Manchester Essex showed off its offensive mettle by exploding for 20 runs, going from being blown out to blowing out the Chiefs to the tune of a 22-9 victory at Memorial Field.
With the semifinal win, the defending league champion Mariners are now just one win away from their sixth straight trip to the ITL finals. Manchester Essex has won four of the last five league titles and defeated the Chiefs for the ITL crown just last season.
“They just didn’t quit tonight,” Mariners manager Bryan Lafata said of his club, which trailed 8-2 at one point. “We were pressing a little bit early after falling behind but we stayed focused and started squaring up on the ball, which led to a lot of runs.”
The Mariners started the rally in the bottom of the fifth inning, plating five runs to cut the Chiefs’ lead to 8-7. Nate Bertolino singled in Rory Gentile, who led off the inning by reaching on an error. Two batters later, Mike Cain singled in Bertolino and was followed by Max Nesbit, who singled in Brett Cahill (who had walked) to cut the lead to 8-5.
Cain came in to score from third on an errant pickoff throw to first base and Adrian Frattini doubled in Nesbit to cap the scoring in the inning, bringing the Mariners to within one run while chasing Doucette in the process.