, Newburyport, MA

July 16, 2014

First place Rowley Rams gear up for the stretch run

By Mac Cerullo
Sports Editor

---- — ROWLEY – Having already clinched a playoff berth, the Rowley Rams are looking to solidify their place at the top of the Intertown Twilight League over the last two weeks of the regular season, starting with tonight’s home game against Rockport.

Rowley (15-2) will take on Rockport (4-10-1) tonight at Eiras Field starting at 5:45 p.m. in the second leg of a key home and home series. On Monday night, Rowley beat Rockport 8-6 to punch their ticket to the playoffs, and now the Rams are looking to finish the year strong to earn the best seed possible.

“The playoffs start the first weekend of August, and we’ve already clinched our spot,” said Rowley head coach Jeff Wood. “We don’t know what seed we’ll be, but we just want to continue to pitch, play defense, be aggressive on the bases and take that wherever it will lead us.”

Rowley’s success has come in large part thanks to the team’s formidable pitching staff, which Wood said includes standouts such as Mike Sloban, Joe White, Tim Moore, Jeff Moore, Joe Martin and Tim Cashman.

White in particular has been outstanding for the Rams. Last Wednesday, the tall left-hander pitched an 8 inning no hitter to lead Rowley past Hamilton 1-0. White threw 91 pitches in the game, striking out 6 while walking 4, and the Rams scored the game-winning run in the 8th when leadoff hitter Anthony Conte came around to score after two errant throws.

“Obviously things have gone our way so far this year, we’ve won a lot of close games and I attribute that to the fact that the core of the team has been together for five years,” Wood said. “When you’re able to do that and these guys play together for a while they start to figure out how to pull those games out.”

In addition to his pitchers, Wood also credited his top four hitters for helping power the team’s offense. Specifically, he highlighted Conte in the leadoff spot, C.J. Ingraham at No. 2 and Justin Bolla and Cashman in the middle of the order.

Though Rowley has enjoyed a great deal of success so far, they still face several challenges before the postseason begins. Next Tuesday and Wednesday, the Rams take on perennial contenders Manchester Essex (12-4) in a critical home and home series that could determine the regular season champion.

Earlier this year, Manchester Essex and Rowley split their first two game series, and now the Rams enjoy a two-game lead on the Mariners with about two weeks to play before the playoffs. Given that Manchester Essex has won five of the last six ITL championships – with Rowley standing as the lone exception in 2011 – this series is expected to be highlight of the league’s calendar down the stretch.