By Liz Matakevich - Shore Sports Network contributor

ROBBINSVILLE - Robbinsville broke open a tight game in the sixth inning and rode a brilliant performance by junior ace Michael Fischer to bring Rumson-Fair Haven's impressive state tournament run to a halt with a 7-0 victory in the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group II final on Friday.

After stringing together a couple key plays to secure the only run they would need in the bottom of the fifth inning to snap a scoreless tie, second-seeded Robbinsville (19-8-1) was a little uneasy that it would not be enough to hold off a resilient Bulldogs (15-7) team.

However, the Ravens got the insurance they were looking for in the bottom of the sixth when they scored six runs to wrap up the program's first title in the Group II bracket after winning the Central Jersey Group I championship in 2010.

“You never want to go into a seventh inning only up one run,” Robbinsville head coach Tom Brettell said. “We wanted that second run and to be able to get six more was great. It is nice to get this first win in Group II because we wanted to let everyone know we are competitive and legitimate team, and we are going to play to be here every year.”

Fischer’s performance proved why he has been Robbinsville’s ace all season, as he tossed a complete-game, two-hit shutout, striking out five. Fischer (6-1) was on target all afternoon with his curveball, changeup and fastball. In 21 innings during the state tournament, Fischer has allowed one run while striking out 22.

“What you saw from him today is what he does every time he comes out,” Brettell said. “What you don’t see if you aren’t watching every time he plays is that he can command three pitches, and you never know what you’re going to get, but what you saw from him today is him every time he goes out there.”

“I tell you what, he is probably the best pitcher we have seen all year,” Rumson head coach Kevin James said. “All three of his pitches were successful. He doesn’t overpower you, but he has three pitches that can beat you, it’s just that simple.”

Fischer’s solid outing made it difficult for Rumson to get anything going offensively, something that was not a factor for the Bulldogs when they were able to take down top seed and defending Group II champion Cinnaminson in their semifinal matchup when they scored nine runs to earn their spot in the sectional championship.

Senior pitcher Shane McCarthy, a Seton Hall recruit, had not given a run up in his first state appearance, and looked sharp in the early going on Friday. He was able to keep the Ravens at bay after a threat in the bottom of the third inning when Ben Sanders singled down the right field line for the first of his three hits, followed by a two-out single to right field by Ryan Fischer, Michael's brother. Rumson outfielder Chris Drummond ran the ball down and fired it home to catcher Jake D’Amelio in time to catch pinch runner Ryan Krebs on a slide to the plate to end the inning and keep the game scoreless.

McCarthy’s tank looked like it was starting to run low in the bottom of the fifth inning when Robbinsville started to put together some more solid at-bats. After Alex Matt was hit by a pitch, Sanders hit a single up the middle past diving shortstop Max Goione to put runners on first and second with two outs. Danny McKiernan then hit a hard groundball up the middle for a single, bringing pinch runner Anthony Palmer home to give the Ravens the game’s first lead at 1-0.

“We are a small ball team so that was huge for me to be able to get things started for my team in the fifth inning,” McKiernan said. “We could all tell that the pitcher was slowing down and we kept rattling and rattling him, and we were finally able to have a sigh of relief when we finally started to break the game open.”

The Raves then blew the game open in the sixth inning to give Fischer a large cushion. After Matt DeAngelis drew a walk, Steve Dranoff singled to center to put runners on first and second with one out. Fischer then singled to right field to load the bases for Tommy McKiernan.

McKiernan dropped down a textbook bunt for an RBI single and a 2-0 lead. McCarthy then hit the next batter to force in another run. The third hit of the game by Sanders brought home two more runs and knocked McCarthy out of the game. Ryan Fischer added two more insurance runs with a two-run single off Bulldogs reliever Brian Smith for a 7-0 lead. McCarthy ended up allowing seven runs on nine hits of 5 1/3 innings, striking out three.

“My pitches started to flatten out towards the sixth inning and obviously there is no excuse for that but it was just the way it happened,” McCarthy said. “No one said we would be able to make it this far, and we made it here and I am proud of my guys for that. I just wish we could have finished strong.”

“The sixth inning was just absolutely huge for us,” Fischer said. “It took all the air out of them. You could just tell after that they were down and that is what we needed. We haven’t put up a big offensive attack like that all season so it was great to do that here to get the title.”

Robbinsville moves on to face South Jersey Group II winner Buena, which beat Barnegat 1-0, in the Group II semifinals on Tuesday at Rutgers University.

“It means a lot to be able to grab our first title here in Group II,” McKiernan said. “This is definitely a big step for us, and we are looking to keep this going for the future.”

Box score

Robbinsville 7, Rumson 0

Rumson (15-7)  0 0 0 0 0 0 0 – 0 2 0

Robbinsville (19-8-1) 0 0 0 0 1 6 x – 7 9 2

WP: Fischer (6-1); LP: McCarthy (3-5).


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