CASTLETON — Lakes Region erupted for eight runs in the fourth inning and reliever Zach Bates kept Rutland Post 31 from having its own big inning for an 11-4 victory Wednesday.
It was the second win in as many days for Lakes Region over Rutland and it vaulted the Lakers into first place in the Southern Division.
The Lakers rattled eight hits around Spartan Field in that fourth inning, including back-to-back doubles by Mitch Brayman and Dylan Lee.
Lakes Region amassed 14 overall. The onslaught was led by Aubrey Ramey, who went 3 for 4 with two RBIs and Aaron Szabo, who was 2 for 4 with three RBIs. Andrew Lanthier, Brayman and Lee added two hits apiece.
Rutland starter Ben Simpson looked as though he was in command entering that inning. He had allowed one run over the first three frames. That came in the third when Lanthier slammed a two-out triple down the left field line and Ramey chased him home with a single up the middle.
But in the fourth, the Lakers were timing Simpson's serves and hitting them with authority.
"I hadn't seen Ben pitch in a while. I had to seem him the first time around," Szabo said.
Like Simpson, Lakes Region starter Nate Bathalon was sharp in the early innings. He held Post 31 scoreless on just one hit through the first three frames.
But Rutland began to solve him in the fourth, scoring twice to take a 2-1 lead.
Bathalon walked Josh Beayon with one out and then Ethan Coarse followed with a single to left.
That's when Lakes Region coach Adam Greenlese brought in Parker Morse to pitch.
Morse gave up a two-run single to Patrick McKeighan that put Rutland ahead.
Morse gave up two more hits in the fifth but was tough when he had to be and Post 31 did not score in the inning.
It was in the sixth when Rutland had the makings of a big inning. Greenlese brought in Bates with the bases loaded and only one out.
Bates did surrender a two-run single to Reece de Castro but also notched two strikeouts to escape with minimal damage.
Bates retired the side in order in the seventh and it included his third strikeout in his 1.2 innings of work.
Bates pounded the zone. Eighteen of his 25 pitches were for strikes and that pleased Greenlese.
The American Legion schedule gets very crowded during this stretch run to the tournament and getting another arm he can count on represents a big deal to Greenlese and the staff.
"We have been piecing things together. It is great to see we have guys who we can count on," the Lakes Region coach said.
"It was great to see what both Parker and Zach did."
Griff Briggs finished up for Rutland after Simpson departed with one out in the fourth, but it didn't matter who was pitching — Lakes Region was hitting.
"One bad inning and you saw what happened," Rutland coach Rick Battles said. "Lakes Region can hit the ball.
"Ben was fine. He threw about 80 pitches and it was a hot day."
Nobody could get Rutland shortstop McKeighan out. He was 3 for 3 with two RBIs.
First place is rarefied air for the Lakers.
"It's a little different," Szabo said. "With two games against them on our field I knew we had a chance to do it."
Lakes Region, Rutland and Brattleboro are in a dogfight for the top spot.
Rutland will try to improve its position Thursday evening in Bennington.
Lakes Region is back in action in Castleton on Friday against a White River club that is in its own scrap with Bennington for the final playoff spot. Fans should note Friday night's game starts at 6 p.m.
Greenlese downplayed the importance of being in first place.
"We just want to get there (to the tournament), but it is nice," Greenlese said.
Lakes Region manager Greg Knapp said he did not believe Lakes Region or its forerunner Fair Haven Post 49 had ever won the division.
"We still haven't won anything but we've got a shot," Knapp said.