PEABODY, MASS. –- Andrew McLaughlin’s dominating performance on the mound was just what the doctor ordered for No. 3 Peabody.
The Tanners needed that type of performance after a heartbreaking 13-inning loss at Gloucester last time out, their first setback of the season.
McLaughlin went six strong, fanning 12 Malden Catholic batters, en route to a 6-2 non-conference victory for the Tanners.
“He was phenomenal. He’s our ace, our bulldog. He wants the ball in big games. He wanted Danvers, but it got rained out. Once I told him he was going today, he geared up for Malden Catholic,” said Peabody coach Mark Bettencourt.
All but one Tanner starter reached base as Peabody belted out 11 hits, but the top of the order provided the spark offensively.
“I’m very happy with how we played and how we were able to keep our focus today,” said Bettencourt. “Obviously this is a bit of a rivalry game for a lot of our kids. Some of our guys know them, and they know us.”
Jim Sullivan and Dan DiMare each picked up an RBI for the Lancers in the losing effort. MC starter Dan Marini went 4.1 innings, allowing five runs, but didn’t pitch poorly.
“We played a very good team, a very well-coached team. They made more plays than us,” said Malden Catholic manager Pat Driscoll.
Dominance on the mound: Making his first start since tenderness in his throwing shoulder caused him to miss a turn in the rotation, McLaughlin threw 97 pitches as he hammered the strike zone.
“He had some tenderness in his shoulder after the Beverly game. It wasn’t really in the plan to throw 97 pitches. He wasn’t hurt, but he had some tightness. We’re really careful with kids who throw as hard as he does,” said Bettencourt.
McLaughlin didn’t allow a base runner until the third inning, fanning five over the first two, including striking out the side in the second.
“McLaughlin did great," said Bettencourt. "He attacked the zone. He made them hit his pitch. He didn’t give in even when he had a little bit of a control issue. He commands the zone very well, but even when he had those struggles he didn’t lay it in there."
McLaughlin allowed just two hits while walking three, giving up just one run in his six innings of work. Mixing up his pitches, he was very effective keeping MC batters guessing.
“He stayed on corners. He kept mixing in his off-speed pitches for strikes. He kept a very good hitting lineup off balance. That was a key to his confidence level,” explained Bettencourt.
“He did a nice job all day right from the get-go,” said Driscoll. “He was mixing it up. He had our guys off balance. Cap off to him. He pitched a great game.”
Top of the order triggers offense: The Tanners had a balanced attack throughout the lineup, but it was the top of the order that sparked the offense.
Matt Correale, Christian Morales and Michael Petrosino, batting 1-2-3 in the order, each reached base three times.
“We talked about that in practice the other day. It’s something we’re going to continue to focus on. We’re a better team when we get the leadoff hitter on,” said Bettencourt, adding, “We have to stay away from 1-2-3 innings. It’s what we believe and it’s what I’m trying to get across to these kids."
Petrosino’s two-RBI triple in the fifth inning broke the game open, giving the Tanners some breathing room. He and Morales each crossed the plate once while Correale had two runs scored.
Designated hitter David Hoar, batting cleanup, had two hits, including an RBI, while catcher Brandon Butcher did a solid job at the bottom of the order, reaching base twice.
“We have some pretty good hitters. They’re not going to hit homeruns, but they’re going to scatter the ball around the park and make you make plays,” said Bettencourt.
Aggressive on the base paths: Peabody was aggressive on the base paths all game, stealing five times on the Malden Catholic battery.
“That’s our game. We preach being aggressive once we get on the bases. We want to use anything we can to get the pitcher thinking about the runner, and not the hitter, so we give our batter more of an advantage,” explained Bettencourt.
Bettencourt, whose team plays a big conference game tomorrow at home against Danvers, believes in his style of going all out on the bases.
“That’s how we’ve been playing since I got here and that’s how we’re going to continue to play. I’ve had games where I’ve had three or four guys thrown out, but that’s the way we play. We live and die by it,” said the 10th-year coach.