PEABODY — A last-minute change of venue proved to be the kiss of death Saturday afternoon for the Peabody softball team, which dropped its season opener, 3-2, to Austin Prep.
With overnight rain rendering the team’s home field at the Kiley School unplayable, the game was moved across the street to Lt. Ross Park. The Cougars (2-1) found the tiny band box to their liking, scoring all their runs via the long ball, the final a solo dinger off the bat of sophomore Amanda Patti in the top of the seventh to break a 2-2 tie.
“Both of their home runs were basically pop-ups that I have to think would have been fly ball outs at Kiley,” said first-year Tanner coach Tawny Palmieri. “We haven’t had a scrimmage in over a week, but we could not have not prepared any better. We out hit them, but we just hit a lot of line drives and hard balls right at people.”
The Cougars pounced early. Peabody senior starter Tianna Dawe (2-for-3) retired the first two batters on routine infield outs. But a walk to Brianna Merloni opened the door for Francesca Frelick, who lobbed a high fly ball over the fence in left-center to stake the Cougars to a quick 2-0 lead.
Dawe regrouped in the second, striking out the side.
In the bottom of the inning, freshman Emma Bloom drew a leadoff walk and advanced to second on a ground out to short by junior Kaycie Mello (1-for-3). Freshman Gina Terrazzano (1-for-3), in her first-ever varsity at-bat, then lined a two-run shot to left off Cougars’ starter Serena McBride to even the score at 2-2.
“Gina is strong and even though she is only a freshman, she is definitely going to be a big part of our offense this year,” said Palmieri.
Pitching and defense ruled over the next four innings with each team advancing into scoring position just once. Peabody senior Mackenzie Marmion led off the fifth with a walk and advanced to second on a two-out bunt single by senior Makayla Iannalfo (1-for-3), but was stranded. In the sixth, Frelick was hit by a pitcher and stole second only to be stranded.
In the top of the seventh, Patti found Dawe’s first pitch to her liking, popping it over the fence in left-center to give the Cougars the lead for good.
Gilbride (6 hits, 4 strikeouts, 2 walks) sealed the win in the bottom of the inning, retiring the Tanners in order on two punch outs sandwiched around a routine ground ball.
“Serena showed terrific poise today,” said Cougars’ coach Frank Sorrenti. “We knew Peabody was a great team. They played great defense and also hit the ball hard and got good pitching. With such a small park, I told the girls we needed to be flawless around the plate and we got that from Serena. She was in and out, and up and down all day.”
Palmieri said it was a great game.
“These are the games you play for,” said Palmieri. “I could not have asked for a better outing from Tianna (4 hits, 8 strikeouts, walk, HBP). That’s one of the best teams around and I was glad to play them early. I’ve told the girls that, to be the best, you have to beat the best, and we could have and should have beaten that team today.
“We have some things to work on, like taking too many strikes, her ball had movement and we got caught on her changeup a lot. We also need to work on some situational things.”
Peabody’s next game is Tuesday against Beverly at Innoncenti Field (1).