ITEM PHOTO | KATIE MORRISON
Peabody’s Eric DeMayo is caught in a rundown between Braintree first baseman Joe Vanelli and second baseman Marco Carnes.
By STEVE KRAUSE
PEABODY — Peabody baseball coach Mark Bettencourt schedules teams such as Braintree to take a good measure of where the Tanners are in the grand scheme of things.
And that is why he could be both upset over the way the Tanners lost an early lead en route to a 10-5 loss to the Wamps Saturday at the Bezemes Diamond while at the same time happy the team played the two-time state champions.
“This is why we play teams like Braintree, and St. John’s Prep, and BC High, and Malden Catholic,” said Bettencourt. “We want to see where we stack up. These are the top teams around, and you want to see how you can compete with them.”
Peabody has now played both Super 8 state finalists this season, and split. The Tanners beat St. John’s Prep in the first game of the season and fell to Braintree Saturday. They will have another Catholic Conference team Friday (Malden Catholic).
“We’re 12-3 with a tough week of games coming up,” said Bettencourt. “This is where you want to be.”
Saturday’s game got off to a promising start as the Tanners took a 5-0 lead after two innings, peppering Braintree starter John Tellier. Chris Gillen knocked in both runs in the first inning with a base hit. And in the second inning, Anthony Iannuzzi singled home a run and Jake Gustin’s base hit scored two more.
That’s when Braintree coach Bill O’Connell decided to change pitchers, and Kyle Gray’s herky-jerky offerings held Peabody at bay for the rest of the game.
Over the course of the game, Peabody did not help itself in several areas. The Tanners had two runners thrown out on the bases, and made three errors — all of which led to runs for the Wamps (11-4).
There were also some other mistakes that couldn’t be scored as errors but were costly just the same. In the top of the sixth, Braintree scored two runs to tie the game at 5-5, and much of that was because the Tanners couldn’t complete a double play that seemed tailor-made.
And in the seventh, when Braintree scored five runs to put the game away, three of those runs were the result of outfield errors.
And after Braintree had tied the game, Peabody got the leadoff hitter on base in the bottom of the sixth only to have him thrown out on the bases when the Tanners couldn’t get the sacrifice bunt down.
“You can’t do that against a team like Braintree,” said Bettencourt. “You can’t get them four-five outs in an inning, and make mistakes like that, and expect to get away with it.
“You might be able to get away with it with some teams, but not a team like Braintree. But like I said, that’s why you play those teams. You have to finish the double play. You have to catch the ball in the outfield. This is a different game than we’re used to playing.”
Jake Zeuli got the start for the Tanners and breezed through the first two innings. And even when Braintree scored a run in the third to make it 5-1, on a single by Kevin O’Brien, Zeuli still looked strong.
After getting out of the fourth unscathed, Zeuli looked to be starting to tire in the fifth, as Braintree scored two runs on a nice on Brennan Quigley’s base hit.
In the sixth, Zeuli, working carefully, almost escaped without giving up a run. However, Braintree leadoff hitter Alex Kennedy, in what Red Sox broadcaster Jerry Remy would call “a nice piece of hitting” took a pitch the other way and placed it just inside the third-base line, scoring two runs to tie the game.
“My hat is off to him for that,” said Bettencourt. “My hat is off to the entire team. That is a very good team we played today.”
In the top of the seventh, Braintree sent 11 batters to the plate, and the Wamps scored on hits, errors and walks in the inning.
Peabody is back in action today at Beverly.