SUMMIT – In its best effort to not allow history to repeat itself, the Rahway baseball team survived an opponent’s comeback attempt and as a result the Indians are moving on.
Much-improved Rahway, the 12th seed, held on to oust fifth-seeded Summit 8-7 in a first round Union County Tournament contest held Saturday morning at Memorial Park.
Rahway advanced to the quarterfinals for the first time in a long time.
Dare to dream, the Indians are now just seven innings away from reaching the semifinals.
Rahway will play the winner of Monday’s (May 1) 13th-seeded Dayton at fourth-seeded Westfield first round game that could not be played Saturday because of Friday night’s rainfall.
The UCT quarterfinals are scheduled for Wednesday, May 3 at the higher seeds.
Rahway won its fifth straight since a heartbreaking 7-6, bottom-of-the-seventh loss at Union Catholic on April 17. The Indians are now 8-4.
Summit (8-6) lost for the third straight time and for the sixth time in its last eight games after opening 6-0. Summit lost its first two Union County Conference-Mountain Division games on Thursday and Friday, Thursday falling at Union Catholic 4-0 and Friday at Johnson 15-14.
Senior right hander Johnathan Torres started on the mound for the Indians and pitched into the sixth before being relieved by junior righty Andres Garcia, who came in from shortstop.
Garcia entered the game with the bases loaded and Rahway ahead 8-4. Rahway scored two runs on two hits and two errors in the top of the first to immediately take the lead for good.
Summit came back to score its final three runs in the bottom of the sixth and would have tied the game had it not been for a fine, inning-ending scoop at first base by Rahway senior first baseman Kris Houck.
Summit had first and second in the bottom of the seventh when Grant Douglas hit a deep fly ball to left that just went foul by a couple of feet. If that ball is fair, Summit has a walk-off win.
On the very next pitch, Garcia threw an off-speed curve that Douglas hit to center, with Rahway center fielder David Tobar catching to close the game.
Garcia, who in the top of the first drove in the game’s first run on an RBI-single to center, earned a save in relief, recording the final six outs.
Torres, batting sixth in the lineup, was 3-for-4, with three singles, including a clutch, two-out, two-run single to left in the sixth that extended Rahway’s lead to 8-3.
Rahway head coach Brad Edwards, whose team came back from an 8-1 deficit at home to beat Summit 9-8 in 10 innings when Summit was 6-0 back on April 12, did not want to see Summit standout senior Will Schaffer come up to the plate in the seventh. Schaffer was on deck when the game ended.
Schaffer was 3-for-4, with two singles, a double and an RBI.
“Schaffer is an elite player who has such a bright future,” Edwards said. “We didn’t want to see him at all in the seventh.”
Edwards was quite pleased with how his team hung in there.
“We really competed together as a team,” Edwards said. “I am so proud of our progress.”
Torres threw over 100 pitches. He started the sixth at 86 before walking three for a total of five. He allowed seven runs on eight hits, striking out none and hitting one batter.
“I felt good, it was a matter of some of my pitches getting away from me,” Torres said.
Garcia was just trying to throw strikes in the seventh, with full confidence in his teammates in front and behind him.
“This was a total team effort,” Garcia said. “We all wanted it.”
Summit committed the first two of its three errors when the game was only three pitches old.
“When you dig a hole it’s tough to then have your running game and play small ball,” Summit head coach Kevin Zaleski said. “When Torres got the hit that made it 8-3, that was big.
“The momentum then shifted our way, but we couldn’t keep it.”
Gregory Vlass, Summit’s No. 9 batter in the order, banged out three RBI-singles. He drove in Summit’s first two runs.
Summit starter Ben Lim took the loss, with his record evening at 2-2. He was lifted in the fourth with runners on first and second and nobody out. He allowed six runs on eight hits, while striking out five, walking three and hitting one batter in a 67-pitch effort.
Lefty Pat Smolyn and then righty Kunal Sengupta pitched in relief for the Hilltoppers, with Smolyn going 2 and 2/3 and allowing two runs and Sengupta 1 and 1/3 and allowing none.
UNION COUNTY TOURNAMENT-FIRST ROUND
12-Rahway (8-4) 2 1 1 2 0 2 0 – 8 11 0
5-Summit (8-6) 0 1 0 2 0 4 0 – 7 10 3
Rahway senior RH Johnathan Torres (3-1)
Rahway junior RH Andres Garcia
Summit senior RH Ben Lim (2-2)
Rahway – Andres Garcia, Luis Muller, Jonathan Torres (infield), Kris Houck, Jason Winters (bunt), David Tobar, Torres, Torres, Muller (infield).
Summit – Grant Douglas, Gregory Vlass, Matt Reddy, Justin Weiss, Vlass, Schaffer, Vlass, Schaffer, Murdock.
Rahway – Jason Winters, Kris Houck.
Summit – Will Schaffer.
Rahway – None.
Summit – None.
Rahway – None.
Summit – None.
2-Luis Muller, junior, left field
8-Jason Winters, junior, right field
1-David Tobar, senior, center field
7-Andres Garcia, junior, shortstop
10-Jordan Becker, junior, catcher
3-Johnathan Torres, senior, pitcher
13-Kris Houck, senior, first base
9-Dominick Williams, junior, designated hitter
11-David Shepherd, sophomore, third base (did not bat to start the game)
5-Jayson Gonzalez, freshman, second base
6-Matt Murdock, senior, center field
24-Trevor Mutolo, sophomore, right field
7-Grant Douglas, senior, first base
3-Will Schaffer, senior, designated hitter
21-Owen Wilkins, senior, catcher (did not bat)
8-Andrew Miller, sophomore, left field
33-Ben Lim, senior, pitcher
15-Pat Smolyn, junior, pitcher
1-Kunal Sengupta, senior, pitcher
18-Matt Reddy, sophomore, shortstop
30-Will Hellings, third base
32-Justin Weiss, sophomore
15-Gregory Vlass, junior, second base