By Jean DePlacido
---- — LYNN — It was exactly the type of weekend that the Peabody Blue Little League Williamsport all-star team hoped to have.
With a pair of victories this weekend, Peabody Blue remained in the District 16 tournament as one of just four teams still alive. They shaded Salem, 5-4, on Saturday before knocking off Pine Hill of Lynn, 10-3, yesterday afternoon.
Saturday against Salem, Peabody Blue was cruising with a 3-run lead for much of the game after scoring three times themselves in the first inning. They tacked on what looked to be two insurance runs in the fifth, but they proved to be a pair of runs they definitely needed in their eventual one-run victory.
“After the first inning we couldn’t get anything going until the fifth, (so) were happy to add a couple more runs,” said Peabody manager Eric Dollin, his team now 4-1 in tournament play. ““We had to sweat it out at the end.”
Mason Zeuli led off the top of the fifth by walking. Salem starting pitcher Bryan Palacios struck out the next two batters before reaching the maximum 85-pitch count for the game, and he had to depart. Jhoan Vago took over and gave up a single to Chris Masta to drive in Zeuli (who had advanced to second on a wild pitch) before James Taylor belted a double to deep right field, knocking in what proved to be the winning run to make it 5-0.
Peabody starter Tyler MacGregor ran into trouble in the bottom of the fifth when Salem’s Bryan Pena hit a solo homer. Three batters later Matt Silva blasted a two-run shot over the center field fence to make it 5-3. MacGregor (7 hits allowed, 1 walk, 6 Ks) bore down to get the final out of the inning, but had reached 85 pitches and Mike Panzini took over in the sixth.
Panzini retired the first two batters before back-to-back Peabody errors enabled Salem to score again as Vago came home on an infield error. But a sharp grounder to Zeuli, who stepped on second base for the third out, ended the game.
“A couple of homers got us back in the game,” said Salem coach Frank Baez, after his team bowed out with a 3-2 record. “Our kids fought hard all the way ... we had the tying run on base, but couldn’t get him home.”
Palacios was charged with four runs on just three hits. He walked five and struck out eight. In the top of the first he issued back to back walks to MacGregor and Panzini to set the stage for Masta, who delivered an RBI single. Caleb Dollin’s two-out single to center knocked in two more runs.
“MacGregor had great control of his pitches, and he was pounding the outside part of the plate,” said Dollin. “The one pitch he couldn’t throw was his changeup because he couldn’t get a grip on the ball. His hands were sweating too much when he tried to go to it, but his location was spot on all game.
“I’m so pleased with the job Panzini did closing it out. He pitched a little during the regular season, and came on in a tight situation to get the job done. Masta was impressive behind the plate, too, catching the whole game in this heat. We really appreciate what he did because we don’t have anybody else to put in there.”
Peabody made quick work of Pine Hill yesterday, scoring eight times in the first two innings and rolling from there. Mike Panzini had three RBI in the first two frames, including a two-run single in the second to break things open.