LOWELL, Mass. -- A runner in scoring position, one out left in the game and a full count left closer Cam Latta unfazed.
Working the outside edge, the junior caught Tigers' freshman Ben Porter swinging high, pumped his fist, and celebrated an MIAA Division 1 North championship.
Pitching has been the strength for the top-seeded Red Raiders (21-4) all season and was no different in their hometown on Saturday night. Lowell continued its throwing dominance allowing only two runs in its past four games, as they edged No. 22 seed Newton North (14-11) by a 2-1 margin at LeLacheur Park to advance to Tuesday's state semifinals.
“To do it in our city was a great thing,” said Lowell senior starter Matt Tulley. “It is getting a little late in the season (and) I am a little fatigued now. You just have to bear down.”
Tulley tossed seven innings allowing only one score and four knocks with 104 throws, while striking out nine. Latta, gave up zero hits in relief and struck out a pair for the save.
“We have a new pitching coach,” said Lowell coach Dan Graham. “(He) looks like a genius now. Tulley threw 129 pitches on Sunday and I told him I only wanted one more inning and that was the seventh.”
Lowell pulled ahead in the fourth off a thrown away pitch and a single by senior Andrew Marasa.
A pair of low rips by fellow upperclassmen Derek Reed and Chad Gens put a runner on first and third with one out in the fourth, while a
missed toss to third by Tigers' starter Tommy Clarke slipped Reed home for the first score.
Tulley singled to push Gens to third and Marasa knock a short drive into the outfield to edge Lowell ahead 2-0 at the end of the inning.
“Derek wasn't sleeping there and the ball gets by,” said Graham. “Andrew has been swinging the bat really well lately. I have been
tempted to move him up.”
Newton North had loaded the bases with one out in the previous half inning, but a pair of strikeouts by Tulley prevented scoring.
A double by sophomore Alex Joyce and a sacrifice outfield pop by junior Ryan Brendan finally broke the shutout with one out in the
“Our strategy is work the pitcher,” said Newton North coach Joe Siciliano said. “Foul off until he gives us our pitch. Our kids battled.”
Tigers junior centerfielder Dan Swain back stepped to force an out falling over with a runner in scoring position in the six, while Marasa dove to snag a left field knock from senior Roger Roman in the seventh. Clarke chucked 105 pitches for five strikes and eight hits in a complete-game effort.
Newton North, which qualified for the tournament with a 3-1 win against Waltham in its final regular season game, came into the
postseason as the North tournament's second-lowest seed. It had previously rolled off four wins against the top 11 seeded teams.
“The game could have gotten out of hand, but Clarke is a bull,” said Siciliano. “The pressure in that game and the kids are still having