It’s title hunting time for Tanners: State title softball game makes a little more sense for coach Peabody Palmieri

The Peabody softball program is looking to add another trophy to its case today with a win over Taunton in the MIAA Division 1 Championship game at UMass Amherst at 5:30 p.m. (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 for coach Tawny Palmieri.

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

“We reached the North Final a few times,” Palmieri said, “but we just couldn’t get past it.”

This year, there was no North Finals to worry about as it was a statewide competition. So, naturally, the Tanners blew up until they found themselves at UMass Amherst. And for Palmieri, it’s surreal.

“It certainly is, going back to UMass and coaching instead of playing,” she said. “It will be a special moment, because I was involved in the UMass program and played on this court.”

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

Palmieri, who played at Peabody High, was at Amherst for a redshirt freshman season and then made the roster as a rookie. However, she read the writing on the wall and saw that her playing time would be limited.

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

But I learned so much about how to play at this level,” Palmieri said. “I learned a lot about the game. It will be really nice to play on Elaine Sortino Field and win a state title.

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

Peabody earned the right to play in that game after Tuesday’s 3-2 bare-knuckle win over Wachusett in the semifinals. Abby and Isabel Bettencourt’s battery held Wachusett’s bats in check while on defense the Tanners made all the ordinary plays and even a few gems. The game of the game came in the fourth inning when Logan Lomasney, at second, dived one way to throw a ground ball toward the middle, then threw, the other way, to first with the bases charged and two outputs. At the time, Peabody was leading 1-0.

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 hit. At that moment, Palmieri felt she needed to talk to Abby.

“She’s a good pitcher and she’s had a great year,” Palmieri said. “I just wanted to let him know that everything would be fine.”

And they were. Bettencourt struck out the next two batters for the victory.

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

“But our kids will take on anyone,” she said. “They have a first-year pitcher and ours is a second. It should be a good game. I hope so.”

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