By Phil Stacey
---- — GLOUCESTER — To beat a perfect baseball team midway through the high school baseball season would take a near-perfect effort.
That’s exactly what Peter Clark gave the Gloucester High baseball team yesterday afternoon.
Clark, Gloucester’s senior captain and star right-hander, was brilliant in pitching 12 innings and holding unbeaten Peabody to a single run before scoring the game-winning run himself in the bottom of the 13th inning, giving the Fishermen a thrilling 2-1 victory at Nate Ross Field.
Jordan Pallazola’s shot down the left-field line plated Clark, who had doubled, with the decisive run to end a contest that lasted a tick over three-and-a-half hours. It knocked Peabody (9-1) from the ranks of the unbeaten.
“Sometimes a guy just has your number, no matter what you try to do. And we tried everything,” Peabody head coach Mark Bettencourt said. “Delayed steals, straight steals, early break steals ... we tried everything. But (Gloucester) responded very well.”
In a contest that featured excellent pitching, defense and playmaking on both sides, Clark shone brightest. A big right-hander who effectively mixed a powerful fastball and a 12-to-6 curveball, he never seemed to tire and kept his pitch count down virtually every inning, allowing him to throw a dozen frames. He allowed just six hits, a pair of walks and struck out 10 while throwing a shade over 120 pitches total.
“I’m very impressed with Clark and the way he pounded the zone,” said Bettencourt. “His ability to pound the zone and our inability to hit him allowed him to stay in the game for 12 innings.
“He was getting ahead with his fastball, and when we tried to get ahead on it we weren’t getting good metal on the ball. We were popping a lot of balls up early. We’re a good hitting team and usually when a kid comes out throwing first-pitch strikes, we hit him pretty well. But I give him a lot of credit; (Clark) gave us nothing.”
Clark has thrown 27 innings over four appearances this spring (including one in relief) and has allowed just 10 hits. Peabody’s second inning run yesterday was the first he has allowed all season.
“I’m a big stickler on taking care of pitchers, and when that pitch count starts getting up there I’m very skeptical,” said first-year Gloucester skipper Bryan Lafata, who has coached many of the Peabody players previously through his work with the Legends AAU baseball program. “But he’s a senior captain and bulldog who was extremely efficient.
“You can tell when a pitcher’s getting tired. But Peter wasn’t leaving it up in the strike zone and his velocity was still good. So I left it in his hands until the 12th, when I couldn’t just let him go any more.”
Peabody’s mound duo of David Apostilides and lefty reliever Matt Correale matched Clark virtually pitch for pitch. The Tanners had taken a 1-0 lead in the second when Matt Gonick’s double to left plated teammate Ryan Collins (who had singled), and Apostilides went five strong innings on the hill.
Apostilides was hit on the left knee with a line drive off the bat of Drew Shairs to end the fourth inning, but remained in the game for the bottom of the fifth. He gave up the tying run when Gloucester’s No. 9 hitter, Connor Harris, laced a two-out single to score freshman Eric Chalmers. When he surrendered a single to Clark and walked Pallazola leading off the bottom of the sixth, Bettencourt relieved him and brought in Correale from center field.
Correale went on to throw seven innings of run-free baseball, giving up just two hits while fanning eight. He used a terrific fastball and big curve to freeze many of the Gloucester hitters.
Tyler Favazza came on to relief Clark in the top of the 13th and shut down the Tanners 1-2-3. Sophomore Bobby Tramondozzi relieved Correale in the bottom of the frame and Clark doubled before racing home on Pallazola’s shot down the line in left.
Gonick had two hits for Peabody while Mike Petrosino, Sean McGrath, Correale and Collins also hit safely.
The two teams played near flawless baseball defensively, with just one error being made over the 13 innings. In total, over 300 pitches were thrown by the two squads.
Peabody returns home for a 6:30 p.m. scheduled contest against Danvers tomorrow. “Now we have to come back out and get the sticks working again,” said Bettencourt of his team’s offense.