By Brian Deakyne
RUMSON — Despite a strong day, one bad mistake from pitcher Louis Aikins cost Rumson-Fair Haven a shot at a sectional title.
Aikins left a pitch up in the zone in the top of the first inning and Robbinsville’s Matt Samel blasted it over the right field wall for a two-run home run, giving the Ravens all the run support they would need in a 3-0 win over the Bulldogs in the Central Jersey Group II sectional semi-final.
Sixth-seeded Rumson-Fair Haven couldn’t find the bats that helped it host the semi-final battle, Tuesday afternoon.
The Bulldogs trounced third-seeded Bordentown late last week, 6-5, helping them host the match-up with Robbinsville.
The Ravens were led by Seton Hall-bound pitcher Sam Burum, who threw a complete game, three-hit shutout to send Robbinsville to the sectional final on Friday.
“I think their pitcher today was a different kind of pitcher than what we saw all season,” Rumson-Fair Haven head coach Gary Costello said. “He was a big tall righty, had a deceiving move. He threw a nasty slider to our guys, I think our guys were guessing more than our normal approach.”
Aikins had a solid day for the Bulldogs, pitching 4 2/3 innings, allowing two earned runs, striking out five and walking four batters.
The Ravens opened the game with a walk, and two batters later, Samel gave them the early lead that Burum would hold on to.
Samel’s home run would be the only runs that Aikins would be charged with. Robbinsville added an insurance run in the top of the seventh inning, sealing the win.
Rumson’s best chance to score came in the bottom of the first inning. After Nico Giaimo’s leadoff single to center field, Thomas Kirman’s sacrifice bunt moved him over to scoring position.
With one out, Chris Lorenz struck out and Alex Bull flew out to right field to end the inning.
After that, the Bulldogs got runners on base in the bottom of the third and bottom of the fifth innings, but those runners would never reach second base, ending any type of legitimate threat.
John Oakes slapped a leadoff single to left field in the third inning, but Jake Simpson later grounded into a double play to take runners off the bases. In the fifth, Dakota Sagnelli blooped a single into right field with two outs. He couldn’t be advanced, however, and that would be the last time a Rumson player would reach base.
Shane McCarthy pitched 2 innings in relief, allowing one run on one hit and one hit batsmen. Lorenz struck out the lone batter he faced in the top of the seventh inning, keeping the Bulldogs behind by just three runs heading into the bottom of the seventh.
“Our pitchers did a great job. We made one mistake, they took advantage of it. They made a couple of mistakes but we didn’t really take advantage of it,” Costello said. “We put a few balls in play and got a few guys on, but after that I don’t think [Burum] made many mistakes.
“That one home run really killed us. You walk a guy to lead off the game, and two batters later, boom it’s gone. You can’t leave that up with a short porch in right field.”
Rumson-Fair Haven, who finished the season at 12-12, beat rival Red Bank Regional, 3-2, in the opening round of the sectional tournament, followed by a win over Bordentown on Friday to host the semi-final game.
“It was great. It was great to have a home state playoff game, the kids were very excited about that. We didn’t really come out with much fire in the beginning, but we fought. We fought all year. The kids have a lot of heart and the fact that we had a state playoff game at home was great,” Costello said.