PEABODY– For the most part, the North Shore Baseball League’s Peabody Champions haven’t faced much trouble this summer. Peabody concluded the regular season at 19-4, one game behind the Kingston Night Owls for first place in the league standings, and swept the North Shore Storm in the opening round of the playoffs.
“It’s been terrific,” co-manager Steve Gridley said. “We have a veteran group of guys that have been having fun. There are eight of us who’ve been there for 12,13 years. We’re having a lot of fun. It gets a little more serious at this point of the season but it’s a lot less pressure when you’re winning and a lot more fun.”
Perhaps the team’s success stems from last summer’s shortcoming. The Champions came one win away from winning the NSBL crown before falling to the Kingston Nights Owls in the deciding seventh game.
“We’ve lost the final three times since 2012 in seven games,” Gridley said. “It stings. You think back to that Game 7. You talk about motivation. You go through every decision, every at-bat. You can’t let it consume you but it’s on the back of your mind to not let that happen again.”
The Champions now shift gears toward preparing for the semifinal round, where they’ll clash against the Beverly Recs. Although they’ve coasted to this point, the Champions aren’t taking Beverly lightly.
“They had us beat the two times we played them this season,” Gridley said. “Both times we won in the seventh inning, once in a walkoff and once in the top of the seventh at their place. They have our number. We know them. We know each other’s rosters pretty well. That’s not a team you can take lightly. None of the teams in the playoffs are teams you can take lightly.
“When you’ve made the playoffs in this league, you’ve earned it,” Gridley said. “Every team has one or two guys that can pitch and Beverly’s deeper than that. That’s what concerns us. They have five or six guys that can really pitch.”
Gridley feels the Champions are in good standing. On the mound, David Hoar has led the rotation with 0.64 ERA. Tyler Leavitt, Mike Muscarella, Peter O’Connell, Scot Weismann and Collin Nye have also provided reliable arms.
At the plate, Chad Martin, last year’s NSBL MVP, is having another great season. Jon Cahill, Mark Shorey, Derek Lyons and Derek Ruggiero have also helped carry the offense.
“We’ve been pretty resilient this year,” Gridley said. “When teams walk us and give us extra outs. we’ve been pretty good about taking advantage of that. You have to take advantage of those at this time. I’ve been happy we’ve been able to do that all season. Hopefully we can continue that.”
Peabody made quick work of the Storm with a pair of wins (11-1, 5-1) in the best-of-three first round. Gridley said it was an ideal start to the team’s postseason quest.
“We wanted to save as much pitching as we possibly could going into the next round,” Gridley said. “When you use your third pitcher, you use your No. 4 to start the second round. We pitched well and played well defensively. You want to use as little pitching as possible.”
The series begins Tuesday night (7:45) when Peabody welcomes Beverly for Game 1 at Twi Field.
“The guys are very excited,” Gridley said. “It never gets old. We’ve done it for a long time but nobody takes it for granted. It’s been a long time since we’ve won and three Game 7 losses doesn’t help. We’re very excited to get back on the field and keep it going.”