LOWELL -- After spending his freshman year as a relief pitcher at Saint Anselm College, Cam Latta has steadily been increasing his workload this summer with Lowell Post 87.
A former starter at Lowell High, Latta has proven he's comfortable as an innings eater.
On Monday night, he took the ball for Post 87 against Watertown Post 99 in a must-win game for both teams in the loser's bracket of the double-elimination American Legion Zone 5 playoffs. With just 10 players in uniform, and standout pitcher Brock Riley away on vacation, Lowell manager Mike McLeod was hoping Latta could go the distance.
Despite a nerve-wracking final inning, the right-hander delivered, and Lowell earned the 6-4 victory at Stoklosa/Alumni Field to stay alive and eliminate Watertown.
Latta worked out of a no-out, bases-loaded jam in the top of the seventh by striking out Watertown's No. 2 hitter, Brendan Berkeley, and No. 3 hitter, Paul Frisoli, and then inducing a fly ball from cleanup hitter Daniel Donahue.
"It took a while to build Cam's innings up, but this was still his game," said McLeod. "We have a couple of arms that we could've used, but it's tough to take the ball out of his hands."
Lowell (14-6) will face Ashland on Tuesday night at 7:00 at Stoklosa/Alumni Field. The winner of that game will automatically advance to the state tournament because Sudbury, which is 2-0, is hosting the state tourney and has an automatic bid, leaving one open bid for Zone 5. The state tournament is expected to start on Saturday.
Latta will be a sophomore at St. A's in September. With just one year of Division 2 college pitching under his belt, he's already grown immensely and learned to deal with adverse situations on the mound. That came in handy Monday night.
Watertown's Kevin Arsenault reached on an error to start the top of the seventh. Anthony Forman followed with a single, and Logan Riley reached on another Lowell error, which scored Arsenault to make it 6-4.
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"I had pretty good faith in myself," said Latta, who pitched 17.2 innings in 12 appearances for Saint Anselm last spring. "I knew I could pick up some of my teammates, they picked me up in the past. I believe in myself and my team."
Latta struck out eight, while allowing seven hits and two walks. Lowell never trailed in the contest, as the offense was able to provide an early lead.
Post 87 put three runs on the board in the bottom of the second. Keagan Latta ripped an RBI single and Tyler Schermerhorn had an RBI infield hit in the frame. First baseman Nik Powers had the first of his two doubles in the second inning and scored on Latta's single. Joe Parisi reached on an error and also scored. Watertown got two runs back in the top of third on Donahue's two-run single. But Lowell fired right back with three more in the bottom of the third to take a commanding 6-2 lead.
Center fielder Dan Zabbo laced an RBI single to score Randy DeJesus, who had singled. Powers then doubled in Zabbo and later scored on a wild pitch.
Lowell had nine hits. Powers, Keagan Latta and cleanup hitter Ryan McKennedy had two each.
"Usually for us it's been about pitching, it's been great," said McLeod. "There was a three-way tie for the two-seed in the playoffs and we got it because of runs allowed. Our staff has been great all year. The five games we lost during the regular season were all by one run. So we were in every game, it's just a matter of putting up some runs."
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