MILFORD — Jimmy Cossette fiddled with his iPhone as he sat in the bleachers along the first base line at Fino Field.
“Now,” he said, “I’m starting to get nervous.”
His son was pitching in the top of the sixth inning for American Legion Post 59, just six outs away from throwing the first no-hitter of his life.
An inning and a half later, after the sun had finally set and lights shined bright on the center of the diamond, Cam Cossette, an 18-year-old rising senior at Milford High, walked off the mound and into the embrace of his teammates. The public address announcer informed the crowd that the 5-foot-9, 155-pound righty had just no-hit Cherry Valley in the 7-0 win.
“How ’bout that!” Jimmy said, hopping out of his seat, beaming with a father’s pride as fans congratulated him.
Cam simply smiled, but inside he was bursting, too. It was only his second start of the season.
“I’m lost for words,” he said, still catching his breath after he struck out seven and walked five on 101 pitches. “Amazing. I didn’t know I had it in me tonight. It just happened. Our fielders were making the plays and I came up with the no-no.”
Post 59 entered the game with six pitchers who had thrown more innings than Cossette. Though Milford manager Brian Macchi didn’t necessarily expect what transpired on Tuesday night, he said, he wasn’t shocked by the first-year player’s performance, either.
“He’s a competitor,” Macchi said of Cossette. “He just works hard on his game. You can see how much he loves being a part of the Milford Legion team and the atmosphere here. He eats it up, you know?
“To have a kid go out there and do that, it’s a special memory for him that he’s going to take with him for the rest of his life. It’s something special for this whole team and this coaching staff.”
It was special for his father, too.
Jimmy had Cam swinging a Wiffle ball bat at 3, pitching to him when he got back from his job in construction.
When Cam’s younger brothers, Cody and Daniel — now 16 and 15, respectively — were old enough, Jimmy took them all to Tomaso Field in Milford whenever they could go. They would plow through buckets of balls for batting practice, field grounders, and shag flies until it was time to head home.
Jimmy never sent Cam for a private pitching lesson. Instead, Cam has learned how to spot his fastball and curve from his summer league and high school coaches. And, of course, he had the help of his dad, who pitched at Maynard High.
“I couldn’t pitch like that, though,” Jimmy said, pointing to his son on the mound.
Jimmy offered one last piece of advice to Cam before his big night last week. In the family’s kitchen, Jimmy insisted that if Cam got two strikes on a hitter, he should steer clear of the breaking ball. Let a hard one fly up high, he suggested.
So, when he found himself in a two-out jam with bases loaded, after two walks and an error, Cossette struck out the Cherry Hill hitter on a rising two-seam fastball to end the inning.
“High fastball!” Jimmy exclaimed. “That’s what I told him!“
Tuesday’s game was the latest in a string of strong performances by Post 59. The team entered the latter portion of its schedule with a record of 14-3 thanks to a deep and well-rounded lineup.
Westfield State rising sophomore Matt Ferrelli leads the team with a home run, eight doubles, and 22 RBIs. Recent Hopedale High graduate Ian Strom , headed to University of Massachusetts Lowell, has also raked in the middle of the order, hitting .477, with 13 RBIs and a team-high seven steals.
On the mound, Endicott College’s J.J. Branch has shut down opposing squads consistently. In 36 innings, he is 5-1, with a 2.53 ERA and 30 strikeouts.
To make another long run in the state tournament this summer — Milford got all the way to the state semifinals last summer before falling to Northbridge’s Post 343 — they’ll need continued contributions from up and down the roster.
Yet no matter where they finish, what happened at Fino Field on Tuesday against Cherry Hill will remain one of the season’s best memories, especially for the father and son for whom baseball has long been a shared love.
“He gets all the credit,” Cam said of his father. “He’s been a huge inspiration, and basically the main reason why I’m here right now.”
Ashland keeps focus on drive to playoffs
Ashland’s American Legion Post 77 coach Dan Sullivan had only four players return from last summer, which made the five-game winning streak his team took into last week all the sweeter.
“This is actually the youngest team I’ve had since I took the team over,” said Sullivan, who is in his fourth season. “We don’t have any kids in college. It’s all high school kids.
“I think that’s part of the reason we’ve been successful. They’re all still hungry and looking to prove themselves, which has been kind of exciting to coach.”
Ashland beat Newton and Weston at home before heading on the road for three straight wins over Watertown, Lexington, and Weston again.
During the streak, Assumption College-bound center fielder Ben Smith of Bellingham mashed two home runs as the team’s No. 3 hitter in the order, while lead-off man Brendan Thurber of Ashland has led the team in runs scored.
At 9-4, Ashland sat in fourth place in District 5 last week. Since only four teams from the district will make the state tournament, Sullivan knows his team has to continue its roll to fulfill its postseason plans. With teams like Sudbury (13-1) and Hudson (11-2) in the division, it won’t be easy.
“The players talk about it every time we get to the field,” Sullivan said of making the playoffs. “That’s a goal they want to achieve. They’re very conscious of the fact that we’re on the edge and that we have to play very well to get there, but that’s certainly something they’ve talked about, and that’s where they want to end up at the end of the year.”