NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

July 27, 2013

'Icing on the cake'

By Jim Sullivan
Correspondent

---- — ROWLEY -- After returning only five players from last year’s 22-2 season, the 2013 American Legion Post 150 baseball team was looking to rebuild and rebuild they have.

“Going into the year, I knew it was going to be different than the past few years,” said Nor’Easters coach Tim Southall. “We’ve now made the playoffs for six years in a row, and we’re the only team to do that. I knew that it was going to be a different year both for myself and for the team. So, I am extremely proud and happy for the guys; they’ve been able to meet the challenge, and I’m looking forward to the next week.”

Tied for first place with Middleton and Haverhill before last night’s win against Lynn, the Nor’Easters (16-7-1) stumbled in the beginning of the season, going 1-3 in their first four games, then things started to click.

“I made some lineup changes, we were trying to figure everybody out and then things just started to come together,” said Southall. “A lot of it was just starting to get these guys to hit wood. So that took a little bit of time.”

Fielding a team of mostly high school-aged players as opposed to the many college players who were swinging the bats during the past few seasons did provide a challenge for Southall and company as high schools require the use of BBCOR aluminum bats as opposed to wood. But once the Nor’Easters got their swing back, they ripped off an eight-game win streak midseason and have been jockeying for a good spot during the playoffs.

Pitchers Brett Fontaine, Corey McNamara and Joe Levasseur have come up big along the way for Post 150, and Colt Fontaine and Josh Creamer have been hitting the cover off the ball, batting .346 (.412 OPS) and .373 (.471 OPS), respectively. Creamer even mixed in a grand slam in a battle for first place at Swampscott last week that really got the Nor’Easters going.

“That was probably the biggest swing of the year,” Southall said of Creamer’s slam. “We were down 2-1 at the time. Brett was on the mound, and he was struggling a little bit. But he kept us in the game. Then Creamer put us up 5-2 with one swing, and we kind of took off from there and it turned into an eight-run inning. And that kind of propelled us down the stretch.”

Post 150 would end up winning that contest 10-5 and prevailed 9-8 in a knock-down-drag-’em-out against the Lynn 6 at Eiras Park last night behind the debut of Georgetown’s Pat Slack, who was tagged for five runs through five innings. Connor MacRae would be tagged for two runs in two innings, but Brett Fontaine recorded the save with two out and two men on as the parking lot lights came on, and the rain began coming down once again.

“Nothing’s easy,” Southall said after last night’s game, which was a make-up from a Thursday-night rain out. “But it was a good win. (Lynn) is a good team. They showed up and were ready to play. It was nice to get it in and play. We’ve got either first or second place with this. We’re going to find out in a little bit. But we are looking forward to Sunday.”

“It’s been a great season,” continued Southall, whose Nor’Easters also clinched home field advantage for the first game of the playoffs on Sunday. “We’re looking forward to putting some icing on the cake, so to speak. It’s all gravy from here.”