CASTLETON — Lakes Region and Brattleboro Post 5 have proven to be the cream of the Southern Division in American Legion baseball this summer and both teams had reason to be philosophical about their doubleheader split with one another Saturday at Spartan Field.
It was Lakes Region coach Adam Greenlese's approach to win the first game with his best pitchers available and then let the nightcap take its course.
It worked according to plan with the Lakers winning the first one 8-5.
Due to the constraints of Legion pitch count rules, the Lakers put people on the mound who were primarily position players in the second game and Brattleboro took advantage, winning 12-2 in a contest abbreviated to 4.5 innings on the 10-run mercy rule.
The day left Lakes Region with a league record of 12-4 and Post 5 at 13-5 so they remained locked at the top.
"You play to win every game but with all the pitch count rules and the compact schedule you have to have guys pitch who haven't pitched much. To their credit, they did it for the team," Greenlese said.
Post 5 might be little deeper on its pitching staff.
"We have five guys who have all thrown a bunch," Brattleboro coach Eric Libardoni said.
One of them is Jeremy Rounds and he was superb in the second game, retiring the first 11 batters in order. He finished up with a three-hitter in his five innings.
Brattleboro Post 5 was the home team. It was played on Lakes Region's diamond but the venue was switched from Brattleboro with Post 5 remaining as the home team.
Lakes Region 8, Brattleboro 5
Lakes Region has been a good hitting team all season and they struck for three runs in the second inning to take a 3-1 lead.
Brattleboro starter Alex Kendall struggled with his control in that frame, walking three. Parker Morse made him pay for the walks with a two-run single. Aubrey Ramey also picked up an RBI in the inning by drawing a walk with the bases loaded.
Post 5 took the lead with three runs in the bottom of the third. An error opened the door and Jack Pattison, Hunter Beebe and Kendall had hits in the inning.
The Lakers took the lead for good with two in the fourth to make it 5-4. Brandon Petit got it started by legging out an infield hit. Ramey, Aaron Szabo and Mitch Brayman also had base hits in that inning.
Lakes Region extended the lead to 8-4 in the fifth, an inning that included a double by Ramey.
Tyler Millerick had an RBI double for Post 5 in the sixth.
Leading Lake Region's 10-hit attack were Brayman with three hits and Ramey with two.
Greenlese got four strong innings from left-hander Nate Bathalon and a solid relief performance by Parker Morse.
Forrest Avard, only entering his freshman year in the fall, relieved Kendall in the fourth with the bases loaded, two outs and two runs already across in the inning. The hard-throwing Avard put out the fire, striking out the only batter he faced in that inning.
But in the next inning, Lakes Region played some small ball, successfully dropping down s bunts against Avard and he was relieved by Adam Newton.
There was no exhaling for Greenlese and the Laker fans until the last out. Post 5 had the tying run at the plate in the final inning but the Lakers extinguished the threat with a double play.
Brattleboro 12, Lakes Region 2
Greenlese gave the ball to Brayman, a left-hander who had only two starts for Hartford High School in New York State in the spring and Post 5 jumped on him in the first inning.
Brayman never made it out of the first, He was relieved by Petit, another who wore the Hartford High uniform. When the frame was finally over, Brattleboro had scored seven runs on just three hits. Four walks helped to fuel the big inning.
The biggest blow was a two-run single by Rounds.
Post 5 built the lead to 12-0 before Lakes Region pushed two runs across in the fifth.
Petit drove in both runs with a double to left. Sawyer Ramey, like Avard only a freshman in the fall, had a base hit in the inning.
Pattison, Newton and Christian Thomsen had two safeties apiece to lead Brattleboro's 10-hit attack.
Rounds had all five of his strikeouts over the final two innings.
"My curve ball started feeling good then," Rounds said, using that part of his repertoire to get the strikeouts.
"Jeremy has been throwing well all year. All but one of his starts has been good," Libardoni said.
Rounds said he felt good warming up before the game and had an inking he could have that type of performance.
"I knew that I was going to be throwing strikes," he said.
"It would have been great to get two wins today but 1-1 isn't bad."
Newton is considered the ace of Brattleboro's staff but Libardoni said that Rounds "has been right there with him."
It is Newton who will get the ball in Tuesday's key game against Rutland, Libardoni said.
Greenlese, himself a standout pitcher at Castleton University, acknowledged that Rounds was brilliant but still felt his lineup should have done better against him.
"You've still got to have an approach at the plate. We didn't seem to be as into it in the second game," Greenlese said.