PEABODY — Mark this one down as one of the greatest comebacks in Peabody High softball history.
Things certainly didn't look good for the home team when it trailed by seven runs with just three innings to go. But an improbable rally turned into a miracle comeback as the Tanners battled all the way back to pull out a 9-8 win over a stunned Gloucester squad.
"I never gave up even when we fell behind (8-1)," said Peabody head coach Butch Melanaphy. "We really started stinging the ball, even though a lot of times it was right at people.
"This was a great all-around team effort. It's so nice to see the bottom of the order come through because they've been really struggling."
While disappointed with the, loss, Gloucester head coach John Nicastro could only praise his teams effort.
"This was such a hard fought game, and I am proud of my girls because they gave 100 percent," said Nicastro, his team now 2-6. "We made a couple of mistakes that cost us; we've been losing close games like this all season. It's a game of inches, and our right fielder came just short of catching that ball (by Donahue)."
The Tanners scored four times in the fifth inning, added two more in the sixth and only trailed by a run heading into the final frame. With one down in the bottom of the seventh, DH Michaela Wallace singled to left and Katie French ripped an RBI double down the third base line to score pinch runner Kaylee Brazell with the tying run.
After pinch hitter Taylor Dabney worked a walk off Gloucester pitcher Hannah Verga, No. 9 batter Kelly Donahue battled back from a 1-2 count to single to right field, driving in French with the winning run.
"I was just trying to get on base any way I could," said Donahue, a senior second baseman who had bunted her way on base the previous two times up. "Their infielders all moved in expecting me to bunt again, but I hit it in the gap.
"(Verga) placed the ball well and was tough to hit. I'm just so glad I was able to help us win."
The Tanners (now 4-5) got on the board in the first inning when Katie Brunelle tripled and scored on Jessica Raymond's sacrifice fly, but Verga shut them down from that point until the fifth inning, when two errors by the Fishermen opened the floodgates.
Donahue's bunt was thrown away and Brunelle reached on an error to set the stage for Holly Smith (3 hits, 3 runs). Her double plated both runners, and Raymond followed with a single before Olivia Brothers rapped a two-run double to right field.
Donahue bunted her way on base again with two outs the sixth inning and Brunelle worked a walk. Smith and Raymond hit back-to-back RBI singles before Brothers lined out to the mound, as Verga made a great play to stab the ball and end the inning.
"What a quick glove their pitcher had on that shot," said Melanaphy.
Alexa Battersby started on the mound for Peabody and was relieved by freshman Shelby Wilson in the fifth inning. The flamethrowing ninth grader shut the Fishermen down the rest of the way, retiring eight of the nine batters she faced (with one hit batsman).
Smith led Peabody with three hits while Raymond, Brothers and Donahue all had two. Brunelle, Michaela Wallace and French all had hit safely.
For Gloucester, Claire Pleuler (headed to Boston University on a full soccer scholarship) had three hits, including a solo homer in the second inning that hit the Peabody Access TV truck in center field.
Olivia Legendre also hit a solo dinger and doubled for Gloucester, while Kerry Brewer chipped in with a single and double.