MEDFORD -- The pennant chase in Mass. American Legion Zone 5 is most definitely an arms race.
And Lowell Post 87 has a staff of aces that is going to produce a mound of trouble for every club on its schedule.
Lowell's pitching rotation features MVC All-Conference baseball selections Tyler Schermerhorn, Conor Callery and Brock Riley, each of whom played at Lowell High, and Dan Zabbo of Dracut.
In addition, there's Commonwealth Athletic Conference all-star Nik Powers of Greater Lowell Tech and St. Anselm College pitcher Cam Latta, a former Lowell High standout.
Post 87 is counting on its pitching, defense and timely hitting, along with the momentum generated from last year's run to a berth in the finals of the American Legion Intrastate Tournament (where Lowell lost to Milford) to produce another summer to remember.
Lowell got beat at its own game Thursday as Medford Post 45's Ryan Covelle and Riley hooked up in a great pitching duel. Unfortunately, Post 87 came out on the short end of the score, losing to Medford, 1-0.
Riley, a hard-throwing righthander, limited Medford to 4 hits, struck out 10 and picked off two baserunners, while Covelle tossed a 2-hitter and fanned 8. Covelle and Riley will be teammates at Franklin Pierce University next season.
The loss evened Lowell's record at 2-2, while Medford improved to 3-2. Post 87 got off a slow start last season, before catching fire down the stretch.
"I felt great out there today," said Riley, who was a major contributor during Post 87's memorable postseason run. "We had a bad hop that went against us or this game would probably still be 0-0. This team has a lot of talent. I'm happy with where we are at so far. The first couple games are always a little rough. You have to find the lineup you want to use. We're still trying to figure that out.
"Today we were missing some key guys (Schermerhorn, Keegan Latta, Ryan McKennedy and Zabbo). It's tough when you have key guys out of the lineup. I think we've done a pretty good job of picking up where we left off last season. We feel comfortable playing together. This team has great chemistry. A lot of these guys have been teammates of mine since Little League."
Joe Parisi and Callery had Lowell's hits. Post 87 had the first two batters reach in the top of the seventh, but Covelle got the big outs when needed to preserve the victory.
"Offensively we were not too strong tonight," said Parisi, who came up big for Lowell in last year's state tournament. "We were facing a good pitcher. He had pin-point control with his fastball and his curveball was fooling people.
"But this is a good team, and our hitting will come around. We definitely have a strong pitching staff. The kids we have on this team have great stuff. We have so many talented arms. The problem is we're going to see everybody's No. 1 pitcher after last year, and that makes it tough on our hitters. We have to keep battling and hope we can help out our pitchers."
Lowell has a proven catcher in Chris Mansour. Dawy Lebron, Nick Bain, Randy DeJesus, Keegan Latta and McKennedy are mainstays in the lineup.
"I think we flew under the radar a little bit until we got to the tournament last year," said Lowell coach Mike McLeod. "This season we have the (Lowell High) Super 8 Tournament label on us and the label of being a top team after how well we played in the (Legion) tournament last summer. I'm sure everyone is gunning for us.
"But this group always seems to find a way. I thought we'd find a way to get it done tonight, but these things happen. We'll bounce back."
Lowell has two key games coming up -- on Sunday at unbeaten Billerica (4-0) at 3:30 p.m., then at Watertown (2-1) at 7 p.m.
"It's tough to get these guys motivated at the beginning of the season," said McLeod. "They're coming out of high school ball. It's summer time. I have a bunch of guys on vacation right now. But if we win games now it takes pressure off us late in the season. Last year, we had to pretty much win out at the end of the year just to make the playoffs.
"This team does have a lot of arms, and after this week we'll have all our guys back. I'm definitely satisfied with the pitching. I feel the bats will come around. If the pitching stays consistent, and the bats come alive, we should have another good season."
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