by Richard Creaser
copyright the Chronicle June 5, 2013
ORLEANS — The Lake Region Rangers (11-5) hot-hitting ways continued Tuesday as they faced the visiting Harwood Highlanders (8-7) in the first round of Division II baseball playdowns. The Rangers rapped out ten hits against three Highlander pitchers en route to a convincing 8-4 win.
“I feel like that was our best hitting game this year,” Rangers freshman second baseman Kolby George said after the game. “I really liked batting today — lots of nice, straight pitches.”
George’s early at bats may have contributed to the early departure of Highlander starter Ty Delphia. George battled his way through 11 pitches in the first at bat for the home team before launching a double deep against the centerfield wall.
“I knew our guys were going to hit it,” Coach Eric Degre said after the game. “We’ve been really dialed in at the plate. Today we worked the pitch count and took advantage of our opportunities.”
Coach Degre took a chance using his number two starter, Dustin Bathalon, opting to save flame throwing starter Matt Messier’s arm for later in the playoffs. It was a good call, as Bathalon pitched six innings surrendering four runs, only three of them earned.
“Dustin was pretty awesome,” Coach Degre said. “He’s been pitching pretty well all year.”
Though Lake Region has played a primarily Division III schedule and Harwood a Division II schedule, Coach Degre was confident that his team was up to the challenge. Tuesday’s game was the first match-up between Harwood and Lake Region this year.
“I don’t care who you play,” Coach Degre said. “You still have to catch, pitch, throw and hit to win the game. We knew what we needed to do to win, and we did it.”
Despite never having faced Harwood before and fielding a relatively young team, the Rangers were not in the least intimidated by their opponents, George said.
“I knew they would be a similar sort of team,” George said. “They would play a lot like us. We knew this was a playoff game and I figured we’d step it up.”
The Highlanders got on the board early as Lucas Russell came around to score on Dylan MacIsaac’s RBI single in the top of the first. The Rangers would respond by bringing around four batters to jump out to an early 4-1 lead.
The Rangers endured some costly defensive lapses that allowed Harwood to tie the game at four apiece in the second inning. Despite those costly errors, the Rangers rallied back.
“I always talk to the guys about dealing with adversity,” Coach Degre said. “They know how to handle it. They’re very supportive of each other.”
Lake Region reclaimed the lead in the bottom of the third after Logan Harper reached on a single and advanced to third on a pair of brilliantly executed stolen bases. With the bases loaded and one out, Highlander Coach Mitch Casey made a pitching change and brought in Dominic Moreno to relieve Dephia. Though Moreno retired the first batter he faced, he plunked Alex Beauregard to bring in the go-ahead run before inducing a groundball out to end the inning.
Lake Region plated two more runs in the bottom of the fourth to cement their lead, and add their eighth and final run in the bottom of the sixth. Bathalon continued to pitch into the top of the seventh before a single and an error put men on the corners. Coach Degre let Messier take the mound.
Messier struck out all three batters he faced to secure the win and help the Rangers advance to the quarter-final round. With the win the Rangers will face either number two seed Otter Valley or number 15 Montpelier High on Friday, June 7.
“To advance to the quarter finals with such a young team really feels wonderful,” Coach Degre said. “They’re young but their learning.”
Contact Richard Creaser at email@example.com