It’s title-hunting time for Tanners: State title softball game has a little extra meaning for Peabody Coach Palmieri

Peabody’s softball program is looking to add another trophy to their case today with a win over Taunton in the MIAA Division 1 Championship game at UMass Amherst at 5:30 pm (Jakob Menendez)

PEABODY — Beyond the obvious significance of the Peabody softball team going for a state title today (5:30) against Taunton, the game will have added significance to Coach Tawny Palmieri.

The game itself is important because this is the first time in the program’s history the Tanners have made it this far.

“We got to the North final a couple of times,” said Palmieri, “but we just couldn’t get past it.”

This year, there wasn’t a North final to worry about because this was one statewide competition. So, naturally, the Tanners just blasted right through until they found themselves at UMass Amherst. And for Palmieri, that is surreal.

“It certainly is, going back to UMass and coaching as opposed to playing,” she said. “It’ll be a special moment, as I was involved with the UMass program and played on this field.”

In fact, Palmieri played on the field where today’s game is being played. It didn’t have a name back when she was there. Now it does: the Elaine Sortino Field — named for the coach for whom she played during the two years she was at UMass. Sortino died of breast cancer in 2013.

Palmieri, who starred at Peabody High, was in Amherst for a red-shirt freshman season and then was on the roster as a freshman. However, she read the handwriting on the wall and saw her playing time would be limited.

“When you want to play,” she said, “it’s tough sitting on the bench watching for 65 games.

But I learned so much about how to play at that level,” said Palmieri. “I learned a ton about the game. It’ll be real nice to play on Elaine Sortino Field and win a state title.”

Palmieri’s time at UMass ended after that freshman year. She transferred to Merrimack to finish out her career and ended up as an All-America third baseman.

Peabody earned the right to play in this game after Tuesday’s 3-2 bare-knuckle win over Wachusett in the semifinal. The battery of Abby and Isabel Bettencourt held the Wachusett bats in check while on defense, the Tanners made all the ordinary plays and even a few gems. The play of the game happened in the fourth inning when Logan Lomasney, at second, dove one way to spear a ground ball heading up the middle and then threw, in the other direction, to first with the bases loaded and two out. At the time, Peabody was nursing a 1-0 lead.

Then, after the Tanners increased that lead to 3-1, came the bottom of the seventh, when Wachusetts’ Tiegen O’Brien hit a one-out triple and scored on a base hit. At that point, Palmieri felt she needed to talk to Abby.

“She’s a good pitcher and she’s had a great year,” said Palmieri. “I just wanted to let her know things were going to be OK.”

And they were. Bettencourt struck out the next two hitters to earn the win.

Taunton is the defending 2021 champion, so Palmieri figures it has the experience and knows how to win.

“But our kids will go up against anyone,” she said. “They have a freshman pitcher and ours is a sophomore. It should be a good game. I hope it is.”

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