SWAMPSCOTT — Sunday afternoon’s North Shore Baseball League semifinal round game between the Swampscott Sox and the Peabody Champions was indicative of how competitive the rivalry between the two teams is.
Trailing by two runs in the top of the seventh, Peabody pieced together a 5-run rally to earn a come-from-behind 8-7 win, evening the best-of-five series at 1-1.
“We’re down 0-2 in the series (if Swampscott wins) and that’s no fun,” Peabody co-manager Steve Gridley said. “Being down 0-2 in a five-game series and winning three games in a row against a team in this league is a difficult proposition. I’m glad we’re not there right now.”
“It was a tough loss,” Swampscott manager Joe Caponigro said. “We had a tough seventh inning. Our pitchers had trouble throwing strikes and that’ll come back to haunt you. There was a ground ball we could’ve made a play on but it was a good, competitive game. It’s going to be a competitive series.”
Peabody scored the game’s first run in the top of the second inning. Robbie Sarmanian (1-for-1, walk, HBP) doubled to start the frame and Mike Gallo (2-for-2) followed with a single. Chris Mansour grounded into a fielder’s choice, scoring Sarmanian for the 1-0 Champions lead.
Swampscott snagged the lead with two runs in the bottom of the third. Donnie Weisse’s (2-for-3, RBI) RBI double knotted the game at 1-1. Elvis Rodriguez roped a RBI single, plating Weisse and giving Swampscott a 2-1 lead.
Rodriguez finished the game 3-for-4 with 6 RBI.
“I’ve been involved in this league for many, many years,” Caponigro said. “I don’t remember seeing a better hitter. In clutch situations, Elvis comes through and hits the ball hard.”
Peabody’s Mike Giardi tied the game at 2-2 in the top of the fourth when he grounded into a fielder’s choice, allowing Sarmanian to score. Rodriguez’s three-run home run to straightaway centerfield gave Swampscott a 5-2 lead in the bottom of the fifth.
The Champions slimmed the deficit to 5-3 in the top of the sixth on a RBI single from Derek Lyons (1-for-4, 2 RBI).
Down a pair of runs in the final inning, Peabody answered the bell in the seventh. Sox starter Juan Diaz, who finished his outing with seven earned runs and one strikeout, was tagged for four runs in the inning before being relieved by Erik Fields.
Jon Cahill (1-for-1, RBI) singled home a run and Giardi walked with the bases loaded, tying the game at 5-5. Andrew O’Neill (1-for-2, 2 RBI) added a 2-RBI double to right field, giving the Champions a 7-5 lead. Lyons capped the rally with a sac-fly, scoring Giardi with the eventual game-winning run for the 8-5 lead.
“That was big,” Gridley said. “Even in the first game, we never had that four or five-hit inning. It helped that Diaz got tired a little bit, started struggling with his control and walked a few guys. We get an error from their second baseman and you have to take advantage of that. We took that extra out, Cahill had a big single and Andrew had that big double off the fence to get us a couple more.
“Even a three-run lead wasn’t safe,” Gridley said. “Especially with Elvis around. If you make a mistake to him, he makes you pay and that’s what he did all night.”
Champions starting pitcher Gallo logged the first two outs of the bottom of the seventh on a pair of strikeouts. But with a pair of Sox runners on base, Rodriguez made things interesting with a 2-RBI single to give Swampscott life. Scott Weismann came on in relief and induced a groundout to seal Peabody’s 8-7 win.
Gallo tallied 11 strikeouts in his 6 2/3 innings of work.
“Mike did a great job for us through those first six innings,” Gallo said. “Scott did what he does. He came in, got the out, and now thankfully it’s a tied series. Back to two (wins) out of three (games).”
Peabody and Swampscott will meet Monday night (7:45) for game three at Twi Field in Danvers.
“We didn’t go away,” Caponigro said. “We kept fighting and I expect that the rest of the series, from both teams.”