PEABODY — Sometimes, a little adversity can help a struggling player find his or her footing and get back on track before the wheels fall off. Just ask Peabody pitcher Joe Zito, who was sent down to the junior varsity squad a little over three weeks ago because he couldn’t consistently find the strike zone.
Zito was brought back up to varsity this week and was scheduled to be a reliever for Monday’s game against Somerville. Instead, Zito was thrust into the starting spot after original starter Chris Faraca was scratched due to a less-than-stellar MRI. And how did Zito respond? By throwing a no-hitter in a 9-0 Peabody victory.
“Joe’s been a kid who’s always thrown the ball well, he has a nice curveball and we’ve really developed his changeup, but he just didn’t throw enough strikes,” said Peabody coach Mark Bettencourt. “After he continued to struggle with command, I sent him down to the JV team until he could figure things out. His last two starts at the JV level were solid, so he was scheduled to pitch relief today. But then Chris (Faraca) was a late scratch and Joe got thrown right into the starting role, and he went out and did a great job for us when we needed him to.”
Zito only had one inning of trouble, the second, when he loaded up the bases. He opened the inning by hitting a batter, then an unsuccessful fielder’s choice put two men on. He struck out the next batter, but then an error loaded up the bases with one out for Ryan Vogel. But Zito didn’t blink, forcing Vogel to ground into a 4-6-3 double play to escape the inning unscathed.
Bettencourt also gave credit to his pitching coach Gary Linehan for keeping the pitching staff ready to go in case a moment like this ever comes up.
“Joe’s performance today is why I feel good about the things we do with Gary Linehan as our pitching coach,” said Bettencourt. “He just keeps our guys ready.”
On the offensive side of things, the entire Peabody lineup was hitting the ball on Monday. The Tanners jumped all over Somerville in the bottom of the first, plating four runs in the opening frame. It started with a two-out walk to Jake Gustin, who then advanced to second base on a passed ball. Joe Gilmartin then knocked him in with an RBI double to deep left field. Back-to-back walks loaded up the bases, then a passed ball brought home Gilmartin to make it 2-0. With men on second and third and two outs, Michael Martinez laced a two-run double into centerfield to make it 4-0.
The Tanners added three more runs in the third inning, one on a sacrifice fly from Trevor Lodi and one on an RBI single each from Martinez and Cole Cuzzi. After two more runs in the bottom of the fifth, Peabody held a comfortable 9-0 lead.
“Offensively I think we had a lot of good swings up there, even if we didn’t always swing at great pitches,” Bettencourt said. “But overall our guys did really well when they stayed patient and got good pitches to hit, and we were able to get some runs across.”
This is just the beginning of a long, tough week ahead for the Tanners. Peabody (6-1) still has three more games to play this week, including a tough one against Lynn English this afternoon.
“It’s going to be a tough game for us,” said Bettencourt. “That’s an experienced team over there with a lot of hungry players who have paid their dues and who have won some big games already this season. We’ve got an experienced pitcher (Eddie Campbell) going for us on the mound, and we’ll see if we can put some more hits together and grab a win.”
First pitch for Peabody-English is at 4 p.m. this afternoon.