By Matt Williams
---- — SWAMPSCOTT — When 24 runs cross home plate, its not always easy to boil a game down to a single at-bat.
In the case of yesterday’s Northeastern Conference crossover between Swampscott and Salem, however, it was clear.
Big Blue senior Corey Carmody hit a grand slam on the 11th pitch he saw from Salem’s Ben Kapnis in the second inning, giving his team the lead for good in what would eventually be a 17-7 victory.
Salem was leading at the time and Kapnis was close to getting out of a bases loaded situation with two outs. Carmody worked the count full, then fouled off five pitches before sending one he liked over the left field fence.
“That at-bat’s sort of a microcosm of his whole year,” Swampscott coach Jason Calichman said of his senior third baseman. “Corey’s an on-base machine, and he fouled off some tough pitches. Plus, he’d made an error the inning before and shook that off to have the biggest at-bat of the game.”
The Big Blue (4-6) have won three of their last four and extended their lead when Ryan January hit a bomb 350 feet to dead center in the fourth inning. Senior Mike Lan also homered with a 3-run shot to left in the sixth.
Nunzio Morretti and Brandon McDonald both collected a pair of RBI and Greg Collier also drove in a run as Swampscott scored in every inning but the first and batted around twice.
“This was the first time we’ve really exploded offensively,” said Calichman. “It wasn’t a perfect game by any stretch because we made six errors. We’ve been talking about compartmentalizing those errors, not bringing them to the next at-bat and turning the page, and we did bounce back.”
Salem (0-8) led 3-0 in the second when leadoff man Cody Mercier doubled home Austin Connolly and Chad Fontaine. Mercier, who was 3-for-5 with two steals on the day, then scored on Josh McRae’s double, but Swampscott’s Trevor Massey retired the side and stranded two men in scoring position.
“We put the bat on some balls, there were some good things ... but Swampscott played better and pitched better,” said Salem’s Paul Caron, like Calichman a first-year head coach. “We’ve made small improvements, but we’re still learning to play the right way and have a lot of things to clean up.”
Massey struck out 12 over six innings, scattering six hits and allowing just one earned run.
“Trevor competed hard. We didn’t help him with the errors and he had to get some extra outs, but he really battled and went at the hitters,” said Calichman.
The Big Blue built a 10-3 lead but Witches kept a disciplined approach at the plate and scored in the fifth, sixth and seventh to keep things interesting. Kapnis, Greg Spelliotis (sacrifice fly) and Tim Ryan (2-for-4) had RBI for Salem and Zach LeBlanc also hit safely. Connolly, the catcher, also reached twice and stole a base.
“We scored three to take the lead and gave it right back,” said Caron. “We have to find ways to fight through those kinds of innings.”
Swampscott senior Robert Serino walked twice and scored two runs, and Massey had two hits and two runs and stole a bag. January scored three times and reached in four of his five at-bats, Carmody drew three walks and McDonald and Lan also had two hits and two runs. Pat Burkett also had a hit, run and stolen base for the Big Blue, who had 11 total hits.
Kapnis struck out six in four innings of work on the hill for Salem while Sammy Arias threw the final two frames.