FAIR HAVEN — The Lakes Region baseball team is a resilient bunch, that much was clear Friday night in its 4-3 Vermont Summer Baseball League playoff quarterfinal win against South Burlington.
Holding a three-run lead heading into the late innings, it looked like Lakes was well on its way to clinching a spot in the semifinals at Maxfield Sports Complex.
Then things got tight.
Lakes Region starting pitcher Aubrey Ramey came out, having given up no hits through 5 2/3 innings, in order to preserve his arm for possible weekend outings.
“Aubrey pitched well. He threw a lot of pitches, so we had to take him out,” said Lakes Region coach Adam Greenlese.
South Burlington’s bats finally got to Lakes pitching, getting its first hit of the game off Andrew Lanthier. After that hit, Mason Klesch singled and that put the away side on the board. Lanthier worked out of it to keep the damage low.
Lakes had a chance to answer back in the the bottom of the sixth, but couldn’t push any runs across.
The inning was filled with close calls and both sides had some gripes.
Dylan Lee came up to lead off the sixth and hit a grounder to second base. The second baseman threw the ball away and Lee tried to go for the extra base. The throw came in and it was close. Lee was called safe and the South Burlington coach let his displeasure be known.
With a runner on second and nobody out, the inning continued. Another close play involving Lee resulted in an out at home. The Lakes Region coaching staff didn’t like the call. Later in the inning, there was another close play at the plate and the runner was called out again.
Close calls happen, and whether teams like them or not, they have to keep playing.
Both teams did just that.
South Burlington made sure to go down swinging, scoring a pair of runs in the top of the seventh off of Parker Morse, on a sacrifice fly by Matt Guyette and a single by Seamus McGrath.
Extra innings followed, and in the eighth, Lakes Region put it away on a walk-off fielder’s choice hit by Mitchell Brayman. Lanthier scored on the play.
“They’ve had grit the whole time I’ve been coaching this team,” said Greenlese. “They’re late inning guys. They don’t give up.”
Lakes Region had a strong day at the plate, despite only plating four runs. They had 10 hits as a team, six of those came in the opening three innings, where Lakes scored each inning.
“We were trying to get one an inning and keep the ball rolling,” Greenlese said.
Lakes Region plays White River Junction in the VSBL semifinals Saturday at 4 p.m. at Maxfield Sports Complex in White River Junction.
With a trip to the championship game on the line, Lakes will be ready.
“We need pitchers to throw strikes and we need to make plays behind them,” Greenlese said. “We have a full head of steam heading into the semis.”