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HAZLET - Playoff baseball is a time for a team's best players to step up and perform, but more than any other sport, difference-makers come from unexpected places around a baseball diamond with a game hanging in the balance.

In the case of Raritan during its Monmouth County Tournament opener vs. Monmouth Regional on Tuesday, that unexpected place was the bench.

Senior John Bachmann came on as an injury replacement in the bottom of the second inning and in the bottom of the sixth, he dropped a tie-breaking RBI single into right field to give Raritan the lone run in a 1-0 win over the Falcons.

Bachmann's clutch single with one out in the inning made a winner out of senior right-hander Chris Gonzalez, who pitched a two-hit shutout with three walks and six strikeouts on 105 pitches.

In the bottom of the second inning, starting left fielder Dan Fedorco walked to become the game's first base-runner. He dove back to first base on a pick-off attempt from Monmouth junior starter Aiden Denton and injured his right shoulder. With Fedorco unable to continue, Bachmann was called upon to replace on the bases, in left field and in the No. 5 spot in the order.

That switch turned out to be a fortuitous one for both Bachmann and the Rockets. In the bottom of the sixth, senior catcher and No. 3 hitter Justin Kilyk smoked a single to centerfield and junior Alex Dekis hit a hard ground ball to third base that the Falcons could not convert into an out.

Buchmann stepped in and after taking strike one, he flipped a shallow line drive over the head of first baseman Brian Yadlon and the ball found green in front of right fielder Brian Bocino. Courtesy runner Dan Calicari came chugging around third base and scored the game's first run.

Monmouth made things interesting in the top of the seventh by mounting its best threat of the game. Raritan shortstop Justin Rivera - who starts at second base when Gonzalez does not pitch - made a low throw to first base with one out and gifted Monmouth a base-runner. Denton made it two base-runners with an infield single to the left side and a wild pitch moved the tying and go-ahead runs to second and third with one out in the inning.

Gonzalez responded by inducing a pop-up that he called immediately and secured for the second out. On the next pitch, Andrew McKinley hit a firm ground ball to shortstop, where Rivera fielded it and fired to first for the final out of the game.

The error by Rivera was an anomaly on Tuesday, when the junior made three big plays at the position, including the final out. He made a diving snare on a line drive in the top of the second and on the next batter, Rivera made a charging play to get the final out, with first baseman Rob Scarola simultaneously stretching and applying a tag on the batter, Brett Minto, for the final out of the inning.

Denton was the hard-luck loser, tossing six innings of five-hit ball with one walk and five strikeouts on 89 pitches.

Raritan is hoping Tuesday marks the start of an eventful stretch of postseason tournament games for the program. The 15th-seeded Rockets will take on No. 2 Red Bank Catholic in the next round, which is currently scheduled for June 3.

The Rockets are also still alive in the hunt for the Class A Central division championship, although the best Raritan can do is win a share of the division championship. Despite the Rockets' earning a home game in the Monmouth County Tournament and remaining alive in the division race, they failed to qualify for the Shore Conference Tournament when they lost to Monmouth on the day of the tournament qualification cutoff, needing a win to clear the .500 mark.

Box Score

Raritan 1, Monmouth 0

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Monmouth (7-11)0000000021
Raritan (9-8)000001X151

Pitching

MonmouthIPHRERBBSOPC
Aiden Denton (L)65111589
RaritanIPHRERBBSOPC
Chris Gonzalez (W)720036105

Top Hitters

MonmouthGame Stats
Christian Zito1-3
Aiden Denton1-3
RaritanGame Stats
John Bachmann1-2, RBI
Rob Scarola1-3
Justin Kilyk1-3
Bill Tigar1-2
Luke Ohea1-3