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RUMSON -- The Rumson-Fair Haven baseball team has not lost very often over the past two seasons, but what few games the Bulldogs have lost have served as their fuel.

Senior shortstop Charlie Tallman remembers those moments, but once he was in the batter's box with the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group II championship game on the line, Tallman forgot about those memories and focused on the moment.

With Rumson down to its last strike for the third straight batter, Tallman came through with the biggest hit by a Rumson player of the last two decades. The senior leadoff hitter lined a two-out, two-run single to center on a 2-2 count to score sophomore Aaron Del Tin and junior Reece Moroney with the tying and winning runs as the Bulldogs scored three times in the bottom of the seventh to stun Wall, 4-3, and capture the program's first sectional championship since 2004.

"It's been 18 years since we won one of these," Tallman said. "That's a pretty long time, so it feels pretty good to have the hard work pay off like it did today. The job's not finished, though."

"We got back to basics over five practices before the state tournament," Rumson-Fair Haven coach Owen Stewart said. "We got back to just competing and doing small things that help the team instead of getting too outside of ourselves. It was really just focusing on small goals and that paid off. And the experience these guys have paid off."

Tallman's at-bat was the culmination of a relentless final inning for Rumson-Fair Haven at the plate. It started with the Nos. 6, 7 and 8 hitters coming up against Wall senior closer and Duke University commit Andrew Fischer.  With his team trailing, 3-1, senior Johnny Bruno drew a leadoff walk to start the seventh, but Fischer responded by getting a flyout and a strikeout to move within one out of a second championship in four years for the Crimson Knights.

"I brought all the boys up in front of the dugout and I said, 'We don't quit," Tallman said. "No one makes the last out.' Being in that dugout, there was no way we were losing that game."

Senior Liam Murphy's flyout ended a nine-pitch at-bat, which set the tone for sophomore Aidan Del Tin two batters later. Del Tin fouled off seven two-strike pitches from Fischer and on the 13th pitch of the at-bat, Rumson's No. 9 hitter took ball four to extend the inning for leadoff hitter Reece Moroney.

"Owen Stewart is a great coach," Moroney said. "He always has us think right side and that's what we do the whole game. We just put at-bats together, keep battling until we get something to hit and once we got it, we hit it."

"The seventh inning wasn't too far outside what we were doing the rest of the game," Stewart said. "It was a little better, a little more focused. Aaron Del Tin sets the tone of the whole inning with that at-bat. He just refused to make an out which, for a sophomore, is awesome. To see him come from where he has been to do that was great."

Playing in his first game since May 17 due to a left-hand injury that kept him out, Moroney also fought off two two-strike pitches on a 3-2 count, crushed a double to the left-center gap to score Bruno from second, cut the deficit to 3-2 and setting up runners at second and third for Tallman.

"We knew he was only throwing the fastball," Tallman said. "Johnny Bruno took that walk and Aaron Del Tin had that 13-pitch at-bat. He was just battling up there and I knew we had to come through at the end."

Tallman swung through a fastball on 2-2, but managed to foul off a 2-2 offering from Fischer to stay alive. On the next pitch, Tallman caught up to a high fastball and hit a screaming line drive into centerfield, easily scoring Del Tin from third and giving Moroney a chance to race home and slide in with the championship-winning run.

"I have been in that spot before and I let the team down, so I didn't want it to happen again," Tallman said. "We were playing against Howell and I struck out with the bases load, down one. I could not let that happen again. I had to come up big for the team."

"Charlie has been our emotional guy since I have been here and he wears it on his sleeve," Stewart said. That was one of the first times I've really seen him calm down and just be in the moment -- not thinking about what else is going to go on; just staying in a moment. And he did a great job."

In describing the last at-bat Friday, Tallman immediately evoked a strikeout of his in a similar situation to end a 3-2 loss to Howell on May 12. He also tried to inject some positive reinforcement into his thought process by taking after classmate Brian Doherty, who gave Rumson a walk-off win over St. John Vianney in the Shore Conference Tournament quarterfinals.

Photo by Matt Manley
Photo by Matt Manley
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"I talked to my buddy Brian Doherty," Tallman said of the seventh-inning at-bat. "He has had a couple (walk-off hits) in his life, so I just tried to do it like him. Words can't describe it. It just awesome to be able to come though for my team like that."

While Tallman came through with the winning hit, the two players the Bulldogs wanted to talk about were Del Tin and Moroney. Del Tin fell behind in the count, 1-2, fouled off fastball after fastball from Fischer in or near the zone and laid off a pitch just above the strike zone to earn a free pass and put the tying run on base for Rumson-Fair Haven.

"Del Tin did an unbelievable job," Rumson senior starter Charlie Jones said. "He stayed in a 1-2 count against a tough pitcher. I think I went and got three foul balls and he was still in that count. He just fought and fought and he set a great example for everyone else to follow."

Del Tin's walk also gave Moroney a chance to come through in his first game back from his injury absence. Stewart slid Moroney right into the leadoff spot and his presence had an immediate impact up and down the lineup.

Moroney fouled off a tough 3-2 pitch before getting a pitch over the plate and scalding it to the gap in right-center. Wall senior rightfielder Jerry Winchester got to it quickly and fired it into second baseman Nick Colbert, who fired a strike to home plate. Stewart, however, threw up the stop sign to Del Tin, holding him at third after Bruno scored and giving Tallman a chance to hit with two out and the tying and winning runs in scoring position.

"My hand was feeling kind of slow all game," Moroney said. "I couldn't really turn on any balls, so I just had to get my front foot up earlier than normal. I just knew I was going to hit a double there. I'm not even trying to sound cocky, but I just felt like that was the moment for me with me returning and everything."

"I can't believe how well he played today," Jones said of Moroney. "He got his cast off yesterday. He had a great practice yesterday, but that's all he has had the last three or four weeks. For him to do as well as he did today, especially at the plate, I can't do anything but tip my cap to him. He really balled out for us."

Rumson-Fair Haven jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first on a solo home run by junior catcher Owen Kenney, who extended his streak to four straight games with a home run. Two of the four Kenney home runs were blasts to the opposite field, with Friday's solo shot carrying out near the foot of the scoreboard for the football field.

Kenney had two home runs in the regular season and they came in the same game -- a lopsided win over Shore Regional.

"Owen can't hit a ball softly right now," Stewart said. "Everything he hits is hard and he has just been unconscious, out of his mind. And behind the plate, he has been even better.

Jones navigated the first four innings without giving up a run, but the fifth inning proved to be Wall's time to strike. After senior leftfielder Jackson Coan singled his way on, Crimson Knights senior centerfielder Nick Lovarco lofted a deep fly ball to right that cleared the fence for a two-run home run and a 2-1 Crimson Knights lead.

"That was the closest Charlie has looked like to last year's Charlie Jones all year," Stewart said. "He had command of his fastball, he had a little bit of swagger to him out there and it was great. He made one pitch to Lovarco, who is a really good hitter, and he got a barrel to it and found out short porch.

After a shutdown sixth inning by Fischer, Wall came right back with an insurance run in the seventh. Lovarco singled with one out and then scored from first on an RBI double to left-center by junior shortstop Gabe Cavazzoni. The Crimson Knights had a chance to add more against Rumson-Fair Haven junior John Goodes, who pitched the entire top of the seventh, but Goodes induced an inning-ending double-play.

Prior to Fischer taking over in the fifth, senior Matt Johnson pitched four strong innings, giving up one run on three hits and three strikeouts without a walk.

Friday's win by Rumson erases some of the state tournament demons from last year that still lingered, although Tuesday's win over Voorhees did a whole lot to exorcise them. Voorhees eliminated Rumson in extra-innings in the 2021 Central Group II semifinals and closing out a 12-4 win over the Vikings -- the defending Group II champions -- was a major hurdle to clear for a team that had not been to a sectional final since 2014 and had not won one since 10 years earlier.

"When we beat Voorhees on Tuesday, I knew the ball was in my hands and I was super fired-up," said Jones, who was hoping to get a chance to pitch in last year's sectional championship game at home before the semifinal exit. "I assumed we were playing Wall and we had faced them one time earlier and we saw what they were able to do."

Now, Rumson will turn its attention toward reaching the Group II championship game for the first time ever, which the Bulldogs will try to do by traveling to play South Jersey Group III champion Delsea.

Box Score

Rumson-Fair Haven 4, Wall 3

1234567RHE
Wall (23-7)0000201360
RFH (22-4)0010003460

Pitching

WallIPHRERBBSOPC
Matt Johnson43110365
Andrew Fischer (L, 3-1)2.23333270
Rumson-Fair HavenIPHRERBBSOPC
Charlie Jones64224492
John Goodes (W, 9-0)12111018

Top Hitters

WallGame Stats
Nick Lovarco2-3, HR, BB, 2 R, 2 RBI
Jackson Coan2-3, 2 R
Gabe Cavazzoni1-4, 2B, RBI
Rumson-Fair HavenGame Stats
Charlie Tallman2-3, HBP, 2 RBI
Owen Kenney2-3, HR, RBI
Reece Moroney2-4, 2B, RBI