By Greg Phipps
The top-seeded Peabody Champions showed why they were the best team during the regular season by storming back from a two-games-to-one deficit last week and winning their North Shore Baseball League (NSBL) semifinal series, 3-2, over the rival Swampscott Sox.
Having lost twice to seventh-seeded Swampscott by a combined 23-1 margin and inching out an 8-7, come-from-behind win in game two, the Champions turned the complexion of the series around by outscoring the Sox, 24-6, in games four and five.
Five round-trippers helped Peabody to a convincing 12-1 triumph in the fourth contest at Swampscott Middle School Field. David Ruggierio led off the game with a solo blast, and that set the tone for the remainder of the game. Other homers included a two-run, fourth-inning smash from Marc Crovo and a solo shot by Derek Lyons followed by Zach Keenan’s three-run dinger in the fifth. Mike Gallo finished off the power surge when he homered with a runner on in the sixth frame.
Also contributing were Mike Giardi with a two-run single and Chad Martin with one scoring hit. Peabody starter Peter O’Connell went six innings, striking out six, allowing only two hits and walking five to earn the win.
Swampscott jumped out to a 5-1 advantage in game five at Twi Field in Danvers before the Champions rallied with seven runs in the second inning to grab the lead for good. After Peabody closed within 5-4, Martin doubled home the tying run. Two passed balls and two errors helped result in six Peabody runs in the inning and an 8-5 upper hand the Champions would not relinquish.
Ruggiero, who went 4-for-4, drilled a double that plated two of Peabody’s four remaining runs. Pitcher Scott Weismann notched the win in relief. He worked 4 1/3 shutout innings, allowing just three hits and fanning eight.
Peabody opened the best-of-seven league championship series against the No. 4–seeded Kingston Night Owls and dropped the first game, 5-3, Sunday night at Haverhill Stadium. Two rainouts delayed the series, as games two and three were reset for Tuesday and Wednesday.
The Owls went 16-8 and led the league in runs scored with 180 during the regular season. They bested the North Shore Storm, 2-1, in the best-of-three first round and swept Beverly, 3-0, in their semifinal. Kingston has won three of the last four NSBL titles. On the other side, Peabody finished at the top of the regular-season standings, compiling a 17-5-1 mark and winning eight of its last nine regular-season games.