By Jean DePlacido
---- — PEABODY — The hits were even at seven apiece, but two big home runs blasts by Peabody High proved to be the difference in a 9-7 win over Beverly in the softball season opener for both teams.
Katie French's first inning grand slam staked Peabody pitcher Shelbi Wilson to a 4-0, and the hosts never trailed thereafter. French got ahold of a Kate Silvestri pitch and hit it over the fence in left field.
Cleanup hitter Olivia Brothers launched a three run shot to right-center in the second inning off reliever Emily Pitman to put the Tanners ahead, 7-2.
“I never swing at the first pitch, but that one looked pretty good to me — so I swung,” said French, who alternated at first base last year. “It’s great to get a big hit in my first at-bat of the season. I don’t even know what the pitch was; I think it was a fastball.”
The game location was changed yesterday from Beverly’s Innocenti Field to the much smaller Kiley Field in Peabody. That late switch was made so Beverly can host a game under the lights in the rematch next month.
“I couldn’t help thinking those two shots probably wouldn’t have been home runs at our place,” said Panther head coach Megan Sudak. “They accounted for most of Peabody’s runs, but we made a nice comeback. Too bad it fell just short.”
After giving up the homer to Brothers, Pitman settled down to pitch well the rest of the way. The only other runs for Peabody came in the fourth inning when Holly Smith walked, stole second and later scored on a wild pitch.
Brothers, who had three hits and drove in four runs, delivered an RBI single to score Jess Raymond, who had reached on an error.
“Those two homers were huge for us,” said Tanner coach Butch Malanaphy. “This was a good all-around game for us, and everybody contributed. We have a new middle infield with Taylor Dabney at shortstop and French at second base (that) worked well together.”
Wilson went the distance for the Tanners, striking out seven and walking two.
The Panthers clawed their way back in the game with two runs in the second, fifth, and sixth innings. After Wilson had retired seven in a row Ally Pia led off the fifth inning with a double and Hannah Silvestri singled. Aimee McKenna ripped an RBI single to left and another run scored on a fielder’s choice by Kate Silvestri. RBI singles by pinch hitter Ally Cabral and Hannah Silvestri made it 9-6 in the sixth.
With two down in the seventh Taytum Geary ripped a run-producing double down the right field line, but Dabney made a good play on a hard hit ball by Meaghan McLaughlin to end the game.
Hannah Silvestri, who took over at shortstop after her sister Erin graduated, went 4-for-4 and drove in two runs.