UM’s Latta pitches in to earn win

Posted April 29, 2009, at 8:59 p.m.

SANFORD, Maine — Justin Latta had been the forgotten man in the University of Maine bullpen this season.

Wednesday afternoon, the junior righthander proved that he is willing and able to contribute when called upon.

Latta scattered seven hits over seven innings in the longest outing of his University of Maine career to lead the Black Bears to a 10-4 victory over Holy Cross at historic Goodall Park.

“How about Justin Latta, huh? Latta saved the day,” said UMaine coach Steve Trimper, who was hoping for a lengthy outing out of the Lubbock, Texas, native to keep the Bears’ pitching lined up well and rested for its upcoming America East series at Albany.

Latta (1-1), who had pitched only two innings in three previous appearances this season, threw strikes and minimized the damage as UMaine improved to 28-15.

“When you get an opportunity, you’ve got to go with it,” said the soft-spoken Latta, who struck out three and walked two while throwing 84 pitches, 54 for strikes.

“I just wanted to throw strikes, make them put the ball in play,” he added. “That’s all I thought about.”

The 6-foot, 190-pounder is hopeful he can pitch more, but is happy to be on such a talented pitching staff, albeit in a limited role.

“I hope so. I just want to go out there and throw strikes, hopefully stay out there a few innings and get something going,” said Latta, who threw a fastball, a curve, a cutter and a couple of changeups.

Kevin McAvoy of Brewer, who hit a two-run home run and a single for the Bears, said Latta’s effort is a good sign for a team that can never have too much pitching, especially in the postseason.

“He’s worked hard. He hasn’t really got all the opportunities everybody else has, but he definitely made the most of it today,” McAvoy said.

Jarrett Lukas of Old Town stroked a double and an RBI single among UMaine’s eight hits, while Kyle Stilphen of Pittston knocked in three runs with a two-run single and an RBI groundout.

Steve Tkowski (double) and Matt Perry rapped three hits each to lead Holy Cross (21-25). Eric Oxford singled twice with two RBIs.

The Crusaders jumped on top with single runs in the first and third innings, but the Bears equalized in the fourth against starter and loser Matt Croglio (1-2). Myckie Lugbauer worked a two-out walk, then trotted home when McAvoy lined an 0-2 pitch down the left-field line for his team-leading eighth homer of the season.

“The bats didn’t come out real early today and Latta kept us in there in the first few innings and then we got a few runs for him and the momentum picked up,” McAvoy said.

UMaine snapped the 2-2 tie with a five-run uprising in the fifth. With one out, Taylor Lewis walked and Joe Mercurio was hit by a pitch. Danny Menendez followed with an RBI single inside the bag at third.

Menendez stole second, bringing him within one of the UMaine single-season record of 35 held by Brewer’s Chad White, then two runs scored when Billy Cather reached on a throwing error by the shortstop.

Croglio was lifted in favor of Chris Blanchard after throwing a wild pitch and hitting Ian Leisenheimer. Blanchard walked Lugbauer to load the bases and, one out later, Stilphen pulled a hard, two-run single to left.

Lukas and Lewis followed with RBI singles to give the Bears a 9-2 lead.

“They gave us a big inning. That’s kind of been the story for the last couple wins for us,” Trimper said. “It kind of took the wind out of their sails after we put up a seven-spot.”

Matt Klaczkiewicz and Alejandro Balsinde each worked a scoreless inning in relief to preserve the victory for Latta and the Bears.

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