All-area baseball MVP: Hard work sets Jake Latz apart
Latz's stellar spring campaign coincided with Lemont's Class 3A title
LEMONT – After a spring baseball season that included a 10-0 record and a program-best ERA, one might expect Jake Latz to get a little bit of downtime.
Instead, just one day after tossing a complete-game in Lemont's 2-1 victory over Sacred Heart-Griffin in the Class 3A state title game on June 14, Latz and teammate Mike Papierski were on the road to Louisiana State University to begin the next chapter of their lives.
This summer, the recent high school graduate is taking two classes (kinesiology and a Microsoft Office class) while also working out with LSU's baseball team.
"This is something that when I committed two years ago [to LSU], I wanted to be a part of it," Latz said. "It's a great experience. The summer will be a little bit of a grind, as well as the fall, but I'm excited. I'm ready."
In early June, Latz was selected in the 11th-round of the Major League Baseball draft by the Toronto Blue Jays (who also picked Papierski), but his dream of pitching in pro ball can wait a few years.
"It definitely is something I've wanted to reach ever since I was a kid," he said, "so when I got the opportunity, it was hard to turn down. I just felt like I needed to get three years down at college first and to get that experience in; see if I can improve on what I did this year and try to go higher in the draft in three years."
As for the recently-completed spring, Latz's eye-popping personal statistics coincided perfectly with Lemont's storybook campaign, which ended with the first championship in program history. The lefty allowed a total of two earned runs on the year, compiling an ERA of 0.23, while striking out just under two batters per inning (114 strikeouts in 62 1/3 innings). His control was also pinpoint as he walked just 12 batters.
"It was definitely something where I set the bar high before the season," the lefty said, "and set goals that were not that realistic. But they kind of came true this year and it was because of hard work and preparation between starts. I don't want to say that I wasn't surprised, but the hard work paid off."
Latz pointed to the mental side of pitching, like not letting a walk or close pitch bother him, as an area of improvement from his earlier years on the mound. Indians' head coach Brian Storako also cited his continued maturation.
"He became more of a pitcher," Storako said. "Last year he tried to blow it by everybody. This season, he worked his other pitchers into the mix. He varied speeds and became more of a pitcher.
"What makes him special is his ability to handle pressure and work out of situations that most high school pitchers can't. And it's not just what he does on the mound, it is how hard he works. Some guys that are talented aren't always the hardest workers, they get by on just talent, [but not him]."
About Jake Latz
2014 stats: 10-0 record, 114 strikeouts in 62 1/3 innings,