For those who know them, it’s no surprise that Iola baseball has reached its greatest success with a Latta or three in the mix.
The Latta brothers, Trent, Jarred and Ryan, have been immersed in the local baseball scene since all were old enough to pick up a bat and glove.
“I’d say it was our father that really instilled in us the love of the game,” said Jarred, entering his sophomore year at Allen Community College. “And having Ryan around was a big influence.”
This week, Jarred and Trent will join the Iola Post 15 American Legion squad in Pratt beginning Wednesday for the State AA American Legion Tournament. Among those cheering them on will be oldest brother, Ryan, who used up his eligibility a few years back.
The Lattas are among the key performers with Iola’s 35-5 squad.
Jarred sports a .474 batting average and an on-base percentage of .522 with 31 RBIs in 34 games while playing around the infield and outfield and being up and down the lineup.
Trent, meanwhile, is hitting at a .376 clip, while he also reaches base more than 50 percent of the time (a .528 OBP). He also is known for his versatility, playing pretty much wherever asked. His greatest prowess, however, has been on the mound, with a 7-0 record and a 1.30 earned run average. He’ll get the start in Wednesday’s opening round game, much like he did for the Iola High Mustangs when they made it to the Class 4A state tournament in May. (It should be pointed out that Trent also was chosen to start the championship game the next day for IHS.)
THEY AREN’T sure where the bulk of their baseball prowess originated.
Perhaps it came as youngsters, as Ryan, Jarred and Trent would play “Heat,” an altered form of baseball, in their backyard.
The game usually involved a stick, a tennis ball and a fielder or two trying to react in time to catch the tennis ball flying by at warp speed.
Hitters, conversely, had to catch up to fastballs fired from about 40 feet away.
“It probably helped our reflexes,” Trent said with a laugh.
Whatever the effect, it certainly didn’t hurt.
Among the regulars in the storied heat sessions were the Latta brothers, Mason Coons and Levi Ashmore. Coons and Ashmore also are featured performers on the current Indians squad.
As the heat games gave way to more organized ball, the Lattas separated.
With two years difference between brothers — Ryan graduated in 2010, Jarred in 2012 and Trent will be senior this year — opportunities to play with and against each other dwindled.
That changed a few years back, during Ryan’s final year of Legion ball. Jarred already was a regular on the squad, and Trent was inserted into the starting lineup for one game late in the season.
“It’s something you didn’t think about until afterward just how special it was,” Jarred said. “Then, we were just so focused on playing. But afterward, it felt pretty cool.”â¨
ALL THREE brothers have seen plenty of success on the diamond.
Ryan was a star for the Mustangs before moving on to Allen Community College and now to a club team in Lawrence. Jarred did the same two years later.
Now, Trent is certain to have plenty of options if he continues his current level.
So, which one is the best?
“Me,” Trent interjects quickly, with a laugh.
Jarred was a bit more diplomatic. “It depends on who you ask.”
Jarred heaped praise on both of his brothers. Ryan’s greatest strengths are his knowledge of the game and his understanding of strategy.
“He really showed us how to play,” Jarred said.
AS FATE would have it, Jarred could have been in the mix of Indian pitchers this summer. While he plays an assortment of infield and outfield slots for the Indians, he was recruited to Allen as a pitcher.
But a shoulder injury has prevented him from doing much of anything from the mound. He struggled in his only inning of work for the Indians this season.
Jarred is unsure when he’ll pitch again.
“It’s up to the doctors,” he said.
Even so, Iola boast plenty of pitching, with a staff ERA of 3.12.
“Just look at our pitching,” Jarred said. “We have three pitchers who could be the best pitcher our opponents have seen all season. We have a good shot.”
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