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Tanners baseball team edges Lawrence in playoff opener, loses in round two

By Greg Phipps

It looked as if the Peabody baseball team might suffer an all-too-familiar postseason fate last Thursday at Bezemes Diamond. But this time the result went in the Tanners’ favor as they were able to stave off a seventh-inning rally by the Lawrence Lancers and hold on to a 3-1 first-round victory in Div. I North action.

Having lost some heartbreaking first-round contests in recent years, seventh-seeded Peabody escaped a bases loaded, one-out jam unscathed in the top of the sixth inning and made it out of the seventh-inning after No. 10 seed Lawrence scored an unearned tally and had runners on second and third with two outs. Starter and complete-game winner Eddie Campbell ended it by inducing a groundout.

“It scares the heck out of me,” said Peabody head coach Mark Bettencourt afterward. “We don’t make it easy. Just when I think the monkey’s off my back, it climbs back on again. But Eddie was great today. That’s the bottom line. He did an unbelievable job and we got the win.”

Campbell fanned just one batter but was on target with his pitches, especially his curveball, and forced the aggressive Lawrence hitters to swing and put the ball in play. He allowed seven hits and surrendered just one walk. “They’re a great hitting team, they like to swing the bat,” Campbell explained after the game. “I figured if I threw a lot of off-speed curveballs they would have trouble making good contact. I’m not looking to get strikeouts as long as I can make the hitter put the ball in play and then trust my defense.”

Peabody’s offense did not produce much in the way of runs and hits (just three of each). But the Tanners made Lawrence ace Jairo Vasquez work hard, registering several walks, being aggressive on the bases and getting key hits when needed. All three players who scored for the Tanners reached base via the walk.

“We had a bunch of good at bats even though we didn’t get hits,” Bettencourt said. “Our guys fouled off a lot of pitches. They really battled and tried to wear [Vasquez] down. I think they were successful doing that.”

Joe Gilmartin drove in the first run with a double in the bottom of the first inning. Jake Gustin’s single brought home Cole Cuzzi in the third, and Gilmartin scored Jake Irvine with a seeing-eye hit in the sixth. “Everyone stepped up today. It was a team effort with big contributions from Campbell and Gilmartin,” Bettencourt said.

Perhaps the most crucial play of the contest came when the Tanners were able to pull off a brilliant double play with the bases loaded and one out in the top of the sixth. “That was enormous,” Bettencourt observed. “It was the play of the game, and it swung the momentum in our favor when we needed it.”

The victory was Campbell’s sixth of the season. The junior righty went the distance in shutting out Wakefield in his previous start. “As the rotation goes, I’m the number three starter. This has been a good year for me, and I’m excited about what I can possibly do my senior year,” he said.

The outcome didn’t turn out as well for Peabody in round two on Monday, as the Tanners relinquished a late two-run lead and lost, 8-5, to second-seeded Medford. After last week’s win over Lawrence, head coach Mark Bettencourt said Peabody was looking forward to its rematch against Medford, which beat the Tanners during the regular season. Monday’s loss left the Tanners with a final 13-9 record for 2018.

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