SWAMPSCOTT — The Peabody Champions can win games in many different ways. Wednesday night in Game 4 of the North Shore Baseball League semifinals, the Champions relied on their power at the plate. Peabody belted five home runs in a 12-1 win over the Swampscott Sox at Swampscott Middle School.
“It was nice to finally give us ourselves a tiny bit of breathing room,” Peabody co-manager Steve Gridley said. “We haven’t been hitting like we talked about. It was nice to finally put some swings on the baseball.”
With the win, Peabody forced a winner-take-all Game 5 Thursday night (7:30) at Twi Field. The winner advances to the NSBL finals and will play against Kingston.
“This series is always very competitive,” Swampscott manager Joe Caponigro said. “I’m disappointed in the way we came out to play tonight. I take nothing away from Peabody. They hit five home runs and their starting pitcher (Peter) O’Connell pitched a terrific game.”
Peabody jumped out to an early lead coming out of the gate. Dave Ruggiero, Peabody’s leadoff batter, launched a home run over the left field fence to give the Champions a 1-0 lead. After the early blemish, Sox starter Luke Marshall settled in.
Marshall induced a pair of groundouts and a flyout to finish the top of the first.
Back-to-back walks to Esteban Paula and Donnie Weisse gave the Sox a chance to knot the score in the bottom of the first. But Peabody starter Peter O’Connell induced a double play and a strikeout to escape the jam.
That’s how it stayed until Peabody plated four runs in the top of the fourth. Mike Giardi roped a 2-RBI single, bumping Peabody’s lead to 3-0. Marc Crovo followed with a 2-run home run, giving the Champions a 5-0 lead.
Derek Lyons led the top of the fifth with a solo home run. After an error and a single, Zach Keenan blasted a 3-run home run and placed Peabody well ahead at 9-0.
On the other side, Swampscott’s offense struggled to get going against O’Connell. Lou Olivieri’s double in the second inning was Swampscott’s only hit of the game until Richie Arias’ RBI single in the bottom of the sixth.
“He (O’Connell) was a lot more effective with his breaking balls,” Caponigro said. “He was throwing his breaking balls for strikes and he did a real good job.”
O’Connell finished his night with with six strikeouts, two hits and five walks in his six innings of work.
“That was the O’Connell that we’ve seen,” Gridley said. “I thought he got a little squeezed in that first inning. I thought he threw a couple pitches that were pretty good but he battled through. He missed a lot of barrels and that’s what you have to do against Swampscott. They barrel a lot of balls. He kept them off balance. When he’s going good, his fastball’s working and that slider’s tough.”
Chad Martin’s RBI single in the sixth and Mike Gallo’s 2-run home run capped Peabody’s scoring for the 12-1 win.
Gridley said it’s no surprise the series will come down to the wire for Thursday night’s Game 5.
“This goes back since I started in this league in 2001,” Gridley said. “Every time we play Swampscott it goes three, five, seven games. Whatever it is, we’re playing the max amount of games.
“I know Swampscott’s not going to be rattled,” Gridley said. “We’re going to have to come back and do it again Thursday night. We’re going to have to hit and we’re going to have to get that pitching performance. Swampscott’s a good team. We had their number tonight and we’re looking to have it again Thursday.”