SALEM — Peabody Gallant team manager Steve Cabral feels it’s always easier to start a tournament with a win to avoid dropping into the loser’s bracket.
Cabral’s team didn’t let him down in Peabody’s Ray Gallant Tournament opener Friday night at O’Grady Field. Contributions up and down the lineup, mixed in with solid pitching from James Smith and Jariel Tolentino, powered Peabody to a 10-5 win over Salem.
“We needed to start off with a win,” Cabral said. “To get into the loser’s bracket is tough. Then you have to use more pitching. It’s a short tournament and we only have so much pitching. It’s better to get in the winner’s bracket, always.”
Starter James Smith allowed one earned run and struck out three over the first four innings. Tolentino pitched the final three innings in relief. With a 10-3 lead in the top of the seventh, Tolentino surrendered a 2-run home run to Salem pitcher Riley Fennerty before settling down to seal the victory.
“I thought they both threw great,” Cabral said. “I thought they both threw really well. They gave us a chance to win. Jariel gave up a home run. He knew it didn’t matter, he went after the batters. They both threw strikes. They did what we needed them to do. They pitched really well. I was very happy with how they threw.”
Offensively, Peabody broke a 2-2 tie in the bottom of the third thanks to Jace Jean-Pierre’s RBI triple and Alex Jackson’s RBI single. Tolentino led a 4-run Peabody rally in the bottom of the fourth with a 2-run single. Peabody never looked back from there.
“Jariel’s a really good player,” Cabral said. “He knows the game. He’ll go out there and play hard every day.”
Salem jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the top of the first on Rocco Ryan’s RBI single. Peabody erased Salem’s momentum quickly with two runs in the bottom of the first. James Smith and Tolentino came home on groundouts, giving Peabody a 2-1 lead.
Both teams went scoreless in the second inning. Salem got back on track with one run in the top of the third. Jacoby Tarasuik ripped a 2-out single and scored on Ryan’s RBI double off the left field fence.
Again, Peabody wasted no time answering Salem’s offense. Jean-Pierre’s RBI triple and Jackson’s RBI single put Peabody up 4-2 at the end of the third inning.
“Even going back to districts, Jace has hit the ball hard,” Cabral said. “He’s a very good player.”
Peabody gave itself breathing room with four runs in the bottom of the fourth. Tolentino laced a 2-run single, scoring Scott Cabral and Zach Hartnett, to boost the lead to 6-2. Peabody added two more runs on a fielder’s choice and an error.
“I thought it was a real team effort,” Cabral said. “Everyone contributed and did a great job. We were able to turn the lineup over and get back to the top of the order. We knocked some runs in. It was a team effort and we played really good defense.”
Salem got one back in the top of the fifth when Nolan Topp came home on Fennerty’s bases-loaded walk. Peabody closed its scoring with two runs in the bottom of the sixth. Fennerty provided the highlight of the night with his 2-run longball in the seventh for the 10-5 final.
Peabody will play Swampscott Saturday night (7).
“Swampscott looks like a solid team,” Cabral said. “We’re going to have to bring our A-game to beat them.”