SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

April 16, 2013

Peabody baseball rallies to top Salem

By Dan Harrison
Correspondent

---- — SALEM — After a shaky first inning yesterday against Salem, Peabody starting pitcher Derek Demild settled into the game nicely.

Witches starter Ben Kapnis was sharp early, but the Tanner hitters also found their rhythm as the game went on and Peabody was able to battle back from an early one run deficit to claim a 6-2 victory.

It’s the third win in a row for the Tanners, who sit at 4-1 overall. Salem meanwhile dropped to 0-3.

“Coming out of the gates our offense was a little sluggish,” explained Peabody head coach Mark Bettencourt. “We’ve been taking a lot of swings at practice trying to get good pitch selection, know when to let it lose and when to put it in play.”

Kapnis had his way with the Tanners in the early stages, allowing just two hits through the first three innings. In the fourth, Ryab Collins laid down a sacrifice bunt with two strikes to advance two runners however the lead runner was caught in a rundown after he rounded third and was eventually tagged out.

It looked like Peabody was going to squander a great opportunity to tie the game, but sophomore Tanner Moquin belted a two run single to give the Tanners the lead. The timely hitting continued from there as Frank Lowry and George Tsonis delivered RBI singles in the fifth inning to break a 2-2 tie. Tsonis’ came with two outs.

“You need three things,” said Bettencourt. “The pitchers have to throw strikes, the defense has to make plays and you have to have timely hitting.”

Even more encouraging was the fact that a bunch of the timely hits and baserunning came from Peabody sophomores. Mike Petrosino had an RBI single in the sixth and Matt Correale was 1-for-2 with a double, walk and run scored on a passed ball. Moquin and Collins are sophomores as well and the play from the younger guys should only induce better play from the upper classmen.

“We started four sophomores and I’m happy with the way the kids played,” said Bettencourt. “When young kids can play like that it pushes the competitive environment. Everyone is hungry and everyone is fighting for a job.”

Peabody saw plenty of fight from Demild, as the junior battled back after allowing a run in the first inning. Demild couldn’t locate his fastball and opened the game with back-to-back walks before Greg Speliotis ripped an opposite field single scoring Cody Mercier.

“Today we were more prepared than in our first two games,” noted Salem skipper Paul Caron. “We came out and I felt like we were the more focused team.”

That seemed to change as Demild starting throwing his curveball in the second inning and the Witches struggled at the plate. He retired eight straight batters before walking Speliotis to leadoff the fourth inning. The walk turned into a run when Demild fanned Austin Connolly with a curve in the dirt however Speliotis had stolen second and advanced to third on a ball in the dirt. When the throw went to first, Speliotis darted home and slid around the tag to tie the game.

Demild had six strikeouts and three walks on the game allowing only one hit through four innings.

“He (Demild) had trouble with his fastball early, so we went with the breaking ball and he was able to find his release point,” said Bettencourt. “Once he found his release point with the breaking ball he was able to find his release point with the fastball. It’s usually the reverse. But he kept them off balance and did what we needed him to do.”

Brandon Butcher pitched the final three innings and didn’t allow a hit. Peabody made just one error in the field and it came in the final inning however the Tanners did turn two up the middle to end the fifth.

Kapnis meanwhile went six innings and, outside of a few fastballs that missed inside, was solid on the mound. He walked or hit a batter at least once in all three of the innings in which Peabody scored runs. In the three innings he held the Tanners scoreless, he had just one walk combined.

Speliotis was an offensive standout for Salem and he was the only Witch to register a hit. Speliotis finished 1-for-2 with a walk, RBI, run scored and three stolen bags and another two advancements on passed balls. He was caught on one attempt when he tried to steal home in the sixth inning.

“He’s starting to put the bat on the ball,” Caron said of Speliotis. “When that happens, it’s a good thing for this team.”

Bryan Lora pitched a scoreless seventh for the Witches and looked solid allowing just one hit while striking out one and walking no one.