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Peabody, Marblehead ready for softball showdown

Tianna Dawe, left, and Charlotte Plakans, and will match wits -- and fastballs -- today at the Kiley School. (File photos)

There’s nothing better than a high-quality contest between two fully capable teams, no matter what the sport.

With that in mind, you may want to head down to Kiley Park in Peabody this afternoon (4:30) to check out what could be the game of the year in softball between two Northeastern Conference powerhouses in the Peabody Tanners and the Marblehead Magicians.

“There’s no doubt that this is going to be a great game,” said Peabody coach Butch Melanphy. “Both teams have had such great seasons to this point and both are battle-tested, so it’ll be a good one to watch.”

“I don’t know much about the team this year except that they have a great pitcher, but I’ve known Butch for a long time and I know he’ll have his team ready to go,” said Marblehead coach Johnny Gold. “We’ll have to be on our A-game if we want to come out with a win.”

The marquee matchup in this contest will certainly be the one between the two pitchers, Tianna Dawe for Peabody and Charlotte Plakans for Marblehead. Dawe, one of the hardest throwing pitchers in Division 1, has had a stellar junior season to this point. She tossed a no-hitter against Salem May 2, and she’s rarely given up more than a handful of hits in any of the games she’s started this season. Plakans has been just as good for the Magicians, striking out 135 batters in under 100 innings of work while also leading Marblehead with the bat from the No. 3 spot in the lineup.

“This could be a game where you don’t see many runs scored, which would be a real change considering how good both lineups are,” Melanphy said. “But I mean, both girls are just so good in the circle that I can’t imagine many hits coming from either side.”

The two teams have had very different weeks leading up to today’s matchup. After beating Beverly 13-4 last Wednesday, the Magicians have had a full week off with no game action due to the spread-out nature of the schedule to make room for any makeup games due to weather. In contrast, Peabody took down Swampscott 9-0 last Wednesday and then went on to play two games over the weekend in the Courtney Corning Tournament, where the Tanners lost to Beverly before beating Bishop Fenwick in the consolation game.

But if you ask the coaches whether the “rest versus rust” issue will have any effect on this game, the answer is no.

“This has never really happened for us with all the time off, but I’m sure it won’t affect us too much,” said Gold. “We took a day or two off but then got right back into it with scrimmages and situational practices, so we’ll be ready to go.”

“I don’t think it’ll make much of a difference at all, to be honest,” said Melanphy. “Johnny and his staff do an awesome job over there keeping those girls ready, and I don’t expect anything less this time around.”

And while each team would obviously want to win this game, if for nothing else than bragging rights, both coaches know that this is the perfect way to close out a regular season before heading into their respective state tournaments.

“It’ll be great for both teams, getting a test like this right before the tournament,” said Gold, whose 16-1 Magicians will likely be a top seed in the Division 2 North tournament. “In fact, you really couldn’t ask for a better scenario than this.”

“This is exactly why we schedule games like this, to test ourselves against the best teams so we’re ready come tournament time,” Melanphy said his Tanners, who are 16-3 and hoping for a high seed in the Division 1 North tournament. “It doesn’t matter about Division 1 or Division 2, that’s one of the best teams in the area we’ll be going up against, and we’ll have to be ready.”

First pitch between Peabody and Marblehead will be thrown at 4:30 at Kiley Park in Peabody.

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