PEABODY — Junior Ian Maude might not be the fanciest pitcher in the Northeastern Conference. But the Marblehead right-hander is perhaps the most effective.
With a fearless knack for throwing strikes that defy opponents to make contact, Maude earned a complete shutout in a 9-0 victory over host Peabody on Friday afternoon at the Bezemes Diamond.
Now leader of the NEC with six victories, Maude was as efficient as she was courageous. He never threw more than 16 pitches in an inning, scatter six hits while stoking six and pitched his Magicians (9-6) to their eighth victory in the last nine outings.
“It’s hard to string together a lot of hits, so we tell our guys to attack the zone. Ask them to put the ball in play and our defense will make good plays behind you,” said the Marblehead coach , Mike Giardi, whose team is behind. Saturday morning in Beverly looking to clinch a share of the NEC Lynch crown.
Peabody (8-9) jumped on the first pitch all afternoon. The Tanners put Maude’s initial offer on the line seven times, but more often than not the ball was caught by a running outfielder or gobbled up by shortstop Liam McIlroy.
“The gaps have been closed for Peabody, apparently,” said head coach Mark Bettencourt, whose team has lost three straight and scored just three points in the period. “We have problems with timely shots at the moment. Guys ask what they can do to create life on the bench, but you can’t solve that problem with the bench. It will come when the balls find shortcomings and it will come all of a sudden.”
The Magicians put the Tanners on their heels early, scoring four times in the first inning. Started Joey Raymond walked the first two and Shane Keogh’s 2-run single broke the seal. Another walk led to Bettencourt summoning Branden Waite from the bullpen and an RBI from James Doody plus a sacrificial fly from Craig Michalowski had it 4-0 before the hosts swung a bat.
“It all started with that first batting quality from Brady Lavender. He took a few pitches, worked a walk and set the tone for everything,” Giardi noted.
Waite was all around the strike zone for the Tanners with six hits and five strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings. His defense, however, made four errors behind him, leading to five unearned runs that put the game out of reach, with the Tanners unable to produce much offensively.
The hosts charged in the third on an error and singles from Raymond and Giovanni Guglielmo (2 for 3) but were unable to manufacture a point. Jacob Palhares also went 2 for 3 and Danny Espinosa picked Peabody, who needs wins in two of his last three games to make the Division 1 tournament.
“It’s a very hard working team,” said Bettencourt. “They do the right thing. When you work as hard as they do and you don’t succeed, it becomes a mental challenge. We have to respond to that.”
Doody added another RBI single in the third and Schuyler Schmitt, who went 2-for-4 to keep his average above .500 on the year, hit a strong two-run double in the sixth. Keough also had two hits and scored twice, second baseman Matt Titus scored twice and singled, and catcher Andy Titus called a great game behind the plate.