Spofford Tournament: Newburyport aiming to spoil Pentucket's CAL title dreams

JIM VAIKNORAS/Staff photoNewburyport's Tom Murphy celebrates his team's victory over Georgetown in last year's Spofford Tournament championship game. The Clippers are aiming to defend their title in this weekend's tournament.

Every year, local baseball teams come into the Bert Spofford Tournament with something on the line. Hosted over Memorial Day weekend annually since 2008, the tournament has consistently seen some of the best high-stakes baseball as local rivals aim to finish their regular seasons on a high note.

“That’s what’s great about that tournament,” said Newburyport coach Mark Rowe. “Whether you’re fighting for a state tournament spot or whether you’re already in and want to get tuned up, or whether you’re not going to be playing in the state tournament, it’s an opportunity for you to still play for something at the end of the year. That was why we designed the tournament to be at that time of year. There’s something for everybody.”

The tournament was created in memory of the late Bert Spofford, one of the area’s most influential sports figures who spent decades serving as a player, coach, umpire, scout and historian. Spofford, who will be posthumously inducted into the Amesbury High Athletic Hall of Fame this September, died at the age of 90 in 2008, and shortly afterwards the tournament was created by Rowe, then Georgetown baseball’s coach.

This year’s tournament will once again feature Newburyport, Pentucket, Georgetown and Triton, starting with a pair of first round games on Saturday followed by the consolation and championship games on Sunday. Unlike most years, all four teams already know their state tournament fate, but there will still be some compelling baseball to be had.

Newburyport vs. Pentucket

The tournament’s marquee matchup pits two state tournament-bound rivals against one another in a rematch of one of the spring’s most exciting games. The last time Pentucket and Newburyport faced off on May 9, staff aces Peter Cleary and Casey McLaren dueled all the way into the eighth inning, with Newburyport ultimately pulling out a 3-2 win after Thomas Greene drove in McLaren for a walk-off single.

Since then, the two sides have remained among the top teams in the Cape Ann League, and with a win Saturday, Pentucket can clinch a share of the CAL Kinney Division title with Lynnfield. Understandably, Newburyport would love to stop that from happening.

Besides playing spoiler, Newburyport is also the Spofford Tournament’s defending champion, and last spring the Clippers all but completed one of the area’s all-time great comebacks in the tournament. The Clippers needed to win seven in a row to finish the season, and after McLaren outdueled former Georgetown and current Elon University pitcher Kyle Greenler in the final, Newburyport’s tournament bid was all but secured.

Both Pentucket and Newburyport are 11-7 overall, and besides bragging rights, the two teams could use another win or two to secure a home tournament game in the first round. Their game will be Saturday at 4 p.m. at Georgetown High School.

Georgetown vs. Triton

This spring hasn’t gone the way either of these program’s had hoped. Coming off tournament appearances last year, the Royals and Vikings both struggled to hit at times and will ultimately fall short of the state tournament. Instead, the Spofford Tournament offers the two squads an opportunity to go out strong.

Triton, which fell to 7-11 and was eliminated from postseason contention with Thursday’s loss, last won the Spofford Tournament in 2016, when the current seniors were freshmen. Jared Berardino is the team’s top batter (.323), and the Vikings also boast five pitchers with ERAs of 3.50 or lower, including starters Cael Kohan (1-2, 1.12 ERA) and Mark Glickman (3-2, 3.09 ERA).

Georgetown, meanwhile, is looking for its first Spofford Tournament title since 2013. The Royals are the only team to enter the tournament coming off a win, having beaten Hamilton-Wenham 6-1 in their last game Tuesday. The team also boasts three batters hitting over .300, including Nick Gaeta (.341, 11 RBI), Max Girouard (.333, 16 runs) and Ethan Block (.315, three home runs).

First pitch will be Saturday at 1 p.m. at Georgetown High School.

 

12th annual Bert Spofford Tournament

at Georgetown High School

Saturday, May 25

Georgetown vs. Triton, 1 p.m.; Pentucket vs. Newburyport, 4 p.m.

Sunday, May 26

Consolation Game, 11 a.m.; Championship Game, 2 p.m.

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