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Champions trail Swampscott in NSBL semifinal series

By Greg Phipps

If not for a major late-inning rally in Game 2 of their semifinal series against the Swampscott Sox, the Peabody Champions, after a regular season in which they compiled a league-best 17-5-1 record, may very well have been swept out of this year’s North Shore Baseball League (NSBL) playoffs.

But as it stood on Tuesday, the No. 1 seeded Champions were facing a 2-1 deficit with the fourth contest set for Wednesday in Swampscott and, if necessary, a fifth game scheduled for Thursday at Twi Field in Danvers.

Swampscott, which finished in seventh place during the regular campaign with a 10-14 mark, eliminated Peabody from last year’s postseason tournament and were on the verge of repeating that feat this time around. The Sox romped to a 13-1 win in Game 1 last Saturday and crushed the Champions, 10-0, in Monday’s third tilt, which ended after five innings due to the mercy rule. In between, the Champions needed a late-game comeback to pull out an 8-7 triumph on Sunday at Swampscott Middle School Field.

Swampscott slugger Elvis Rodriguez was the biggest damage-doer, driving in six runs with three hits in Sunday’s contest. His rocket three-run blast into the woods beyond the centerfield fence gave the Sox a 5-2 lead after five innings. The Champions pushed across a run in the top of the sixth on Derek Lyons’ RBI single to climb within 5-3.

Peabody struck for five tallies in the seventh when Jon Cahill singled in a run and Mike Giardi walked with the bases loaded to tie it. Andrew O’Neill then doubled in two runs for a 7-5 lead. The game-winning insurance run came across on Lyons’ sacrifice fly. In the bottom half of the frame, Rodriguez stroked a two-run single to bring the Sox within a run. But reliever Scott Weismann was able to get the final out and preserve the victory for starter Mike Gallo.

Gallo battled his way through six and two-thirds innings and managed 11 strikeouts despite allowing seven runs. Robbie Sarmanian scored on a fielder’s choice in the second inning to give the Champions a 1-0 lead. The Sox took a 2-1 edge before Peabody tied it when Giardi’s fourth-inning ground out scored Sarmanian.

Outscored 23-1 in the two semifinal losses, the Champions, who were held to just one hit in Monday’s loss, were faced with having to take two in a row to advance to the league finals. Peabody got to the semifinal round by drubbing eighth-seeded Manchester by 10-0 and 12-0 scores in the best-of-three first round. Meanwhile seventh-seeded Swampscott pulled off an opening-round upset of the second-seeded North Shore Phillies.

The Kingston Night Owls await the winner of the Swampscott-Peabody series. The Owls swept past Beverly, 3-0, in their semifinal clash.

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