PEABODY — There is just no denying the Peabody softball team these days. Off to their best start in history at 8-0, the Tanners are in the groove in all phases of the game.
Saturday at the Kiley School, the Tanners passed another test with flying colors, downing Middlesex League powerhouse Reading 4-1.
Starter Tianna Dawe was masterful, twirling a 3-hitter while fanning nine Rockets with only one walk in a complete game effort.
Holding a 1-0 lead, left fielder Lucianna Mastromatteo broke the game open in fifth inning, blasting a 3-run home run over the fence in right-center to make it 4-0.
Reading came back with a solo run in the sixth to pull to 4-1, but Dawe set down the side in order in the seventh (with help from a Rocket baserunning blunder) to seal the win. With one out, the Rockets seemed to be back in business when Taylor Holmes hit a shot to right center. She ended up at third after the ball got past an outfielder, but was ruled out after a successful appeal by Peabody coach Butch Melanaphy that Holmes had failed to touch first base.
“Reading is a solid team so that was a real test for our us,” said Melanaphy. “Other than Classical or Danvers we haven’t been tested, but this was the big test. I’m happy to say, in the end, we just outplayed them. They made some mistakes and we capitalized on them and Luci, when she hit that big home run, it deflated them.”
Reading threatened right away in the first inning when Catherine Weber smacked a one-out double in the first, but she was stranded at second when Dawe struck out the next two Rockets.
In the top of the fourth, Reading and infield error, walk and a passed ball put Rockets at second and third with one out, but, again, Dawe got out of the jam unscathed with a pair of strikeouts.
The Tanners broke through in their half of the inning. Dawe reached on a fielder’s choice and got into scoring position on a Sydney Lowry’s ground out. She came home on Makayla Iannalfo’s RBI single to give Peabody a 1-0 lead.
Mallory LeBlanc led off the fifth with an infield single to short. Makayla Rooney followed with a walk. After both runners moved up a base on a passed ball, Mastromatteo (1-3, 3 RBI) went opposite field with a fastball into the playground to make it a 4-1 game.
Dawe (2-for-3, double, stolen base) and MacKenzie Maimion (2-for-3) had two of the Tanners’ nine hits, while Marmion (center field), right fielder Kelsey Blake and LeBlanc at short, turned in strong defensive efforts.
“The outfield was rock solid and overall our defense was very good,” said Melanaphy. “This year our defense has been very good, although we did have two errors today, but we still have made only five or so in eight games, which isn’t bad. Kelsey Blake and MacKenzie Marmion, they just make the catches, and Mallory at short was unbelievable. She has really improved in the field and with her hitting this year.”
Reading coach Jill McElroy said the Rockets’ inability to capitalize on their early chances was the difference.
“Early in the game we had second and third and we didn’t capitalize and that killed us,” she said. “If we had scored and done something in that inning, it might have been a different game. We just didn’t capitalize today.”
Melanaphy said the key this year has been Peabody’s ability to get out front early.
“We try to jump out quick to put the other team behind the eight-ball and with ‘T’ pitching, it’s tough for them to catch up,” he said. “Today we told them to be aggressive because their girl was going to throw strikes, so we said if you see the first pitch and like what you see, then go for it and that’s what they did.”